Not only is what teens choose to share or not in online profiles important, but also how teens choose to share that information by making profiles or online materials public or private. Social network users and others who share content online can take advantage of the privacy and restriction tools offered within the system where they share their personal information or self-created content. This can mean password protecting an account, blog or other online sharing space, or it can mean making a profile or blog posting private so that only those on a friends list or in an online network can see what you’ve posted beyond a few basic pieces of information.
Many teens with online profiles restrict access to them.
As noted previously by the Project, a large number of teens with online profiles in some way obscure or restrict access to their online information. Indeed, a total of 66% of all teens who have ever created an online profile in some way restrict access to their profiles, including making them private, password protecting them, hiding them completely from others or even taking them offline. Three in four teens who have a profile (77%) say that it is currently available online. Of those teens with an active, currently posted profile, 59% of them say that their profile is only visible to friends. Another 40% say that anyone can see their profile. There is no statistically significant difference in restricting access to profiles by sex or age.
Teens with parents who know that they have a profile online are more likely than teens with unaware parents to have their profile visible only to friends. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of teens whose parents are aware of their online profile say that their profile is only available to friends, while 46% of teens whose parents do not know about their online profile say they have set their profiles to private. For some teens, making their profile private may be a response to parental concerns regarding keeping personal information private, or it may be that they are making their profiles private to keep them away from prying parental and other adult eyes.
Teens who have an online profile are somewhat more likely to have parents who have rules about the kinds of personal information they can share with people they talk to on the internet. Fully 89% of parents of teens with profiles say they have rules about the personal information their child can share with people they talk to online, compared with 81% of parents of online teens who do not have profiles.
Half of all online teens and three-quarters of social networking teens post photos online.
Teens also take steps to restrict other kinds of material they have shared online. Digital photos, often one of the anchoring elements of online profiles and blogs, are widely posted online by teens in many different contexts. With the proliferation of digital cameras and cell phone cameras, in particular, many teens have the means to document the most mundane and profound moments of their lives. They can then share these photos with family, friends or the world at large by posting them online to their profiles or to popular photo sharing sites like Flickr. About half of wired teens (47%) say they upload photos online where others can see them. In comparison, 73% of teens who use social networking post photos compared with just 16% of non-SNS teens.
Girls eclipse boys in photo posting.
Girls are far more likely to have posted photos online when compared with boys; 54% vs. 40%. Older teens are also more active posters 58% of teens ages 15-17 post photos vs. 36% of younger teens ages 12-14. Older girls are more seasoned posters, with 67% of them uploading photos, compared with 48% of older boys. Younger girls and boys are equally as likely to upload photos; 39% of younger girls ages 12-14 upload photos while 33% of younger boys do so.
Teens that live in homes with high-speed internet access are better positioned to upload content, and it shows. While 51% of broadband teens upload photos online, just 39% of dial-up teens post photos. Likewise, teens that are online frequently are more engaged with photo posting; while 59% of those who go online daily post photos, just 35% of teens who go online several times per week have uploaded photos.
Teens that go online most often from home are considerably more likely to post photos when compared with those who are primarily at-school users. About half (51%) of online teens who access the internet mostly from home have uploaded photos, compared with 36% of those with primary access at school. Many schools block social networking sites on their school networks, so many young people with access primarily at school may have fewer opportunities to upload photos, as those sites are for many a primary photo-sharing space.
Most teens restrict access to their posted photos – at least some of the time. Girls are more conservative about restricting access to photos.
Few teens who upload photos online consistently publish them without any restrictions. While 39% say they restrict access to their photos “most of the time,” another 38% report restricting access “only sometimes.” Just 21% of teens who post photos say they “never” restrict access to the images they upload.
Girls are more likely to restrict access to their photos (“most of the time”) when compared with boys; 44% of girls who post photos regularly restrict access, while 33% of photo-posting boys do so. Older girls are even more protective of their images, with 49% of photo-posting girls restricting access most of the time vs. 29% of photo-posting older boys.
“i try to post as little information as possible. there is no way of knowing who is going to see the information posted and i'm really stingy. i don't think it's okay to share last names, date of birth, where i live, anything that will help people identify me. pictures are OK because it's really difficult to find someone if the only thing you know about them is what they look like.”
– Girl, Early High School
One in five social networking teens have posted video files online. Boys lead the video-posting pack.
While just 14% of all online teens say they have uploaded a video file online where others can watch it, 22% of social networking teens report video posting. And in a striking departure from the trends observed with photo posting, online teen boys are almost twice as likely as online teen girls to post video files (19% vs. 10%). Not even the highly-wired and active segment of older girls can compete with boys in this instance; 21% of older boys post video, while just 10% of older girls do so. Overall, 57% of all online teens have watched a video on a video sharing site like YouTube or GoogleVideo.
Videos are not restricted as often as photos.
For the most part, teens who post video files want them to be seen. Just 19% of video posters say they restrict access to their videos “most of the time.” As previously mentioned, that compares to 39% of photo posting teens who “most of the time” set limits on who can view the photos they post. Over one-third of teens who post videos (35%) say they restrict access to their videos “only sometimes” and 46% say they “never” limit who can watch their videos.
The group of teens who post videos (n=124) is too small to note any significant variations in privacy restrictions according to gender, age or other demographic characteristics. It is also important to note that when teens say that they have restricted access to content they have posted online, it may mean making it visible only to friends, and it also may mean flagging it as content that is only appropriate for adults.
Posting photos and videos starts a conversation. Most teens receive some feedback on the content they post online.
The posting of content does not happen in a vacuum. Teens and adults post content so that it might be seen by an audience, regardless of how that audience is limited by restrictions set on the content by the content poster. And sometimes that audience responds to the content posted online, making the content as much about interaction with others as it is about sharing with them. About half (52%) of teens who post photos online say that people comment or respond to their photos “sometimes.” Another third (37%) say that their audience comments on their posted photos “most of the time.” Only 10% of teens who post photos online say that people “never” comment on what they have posted.
Video posters report a similar incidence of commenting on the videos they post online – a little under half (48%) say that people “sometimes” comment on their video postings. A quarter (24%) say that people comment on their online videos “most of the time.” Another quarter (27%) say that they “never” get comments on posted videos.