Beyond what they post, the choices teens make about who they share information with via their social media profiles suggest that most teens are cognizant of their online privacy and have made choices to try to protect it. Close to two-thirds (62%) of teens who have a social media profile say the profile they use most often is set to be private so that only their friends can see the content they post. One in five (19%) say their profile is partially private so that friends of friends or their networks can see some version of their profile. Just 17% say their profile is set to public so that everyone can see it. This distribution is consistent regardless of how often a teen uses social network sites.
However, teens in our focus groups did describe the important differences in how various applications are structured, and how the affordances of the privacy settings on different profiles affect their willingness to use them. One middle school-aged boy described how his privacy concerns ultimately led him to delete his Twitter account:
MIDDLE SCHOOL BOY: I mean, I had a Twitter. But Twitter is scary because like it’s so much more – like you can Google my name and it will have my Twitter account. And then it’s not really as protected as Facebook […] – because in Facebook, you can set a setting so it really can’t see you. But like in Twitter, I always feel like that anyone can really see any tweet that I’m doing, which may be not true… There wasn’t enough privacy, so I just deleted it. And just stick with Facebook.
Similarly, another boy in the same group said that he had deleted his Buzz account because he felt it was too public:
MIDDLE SCHOOL BOY: The same thing happened with me on Buzz, because I Googled my name on Google and all my like Buzz things that I’d posted and commented on came up. So I deleted my account.