32% of online teens have been contacted by strangers online, 21% of teens who have been contacted by strangers have engaged with an online stranger to find out more information about that person and 23% of teens who have been contacted by a stranger online say they felt scared or uncomfortable because of the online encounter (Lenhart & Madden, 2007).
While reading some of the course readings in my media literacy class at university I gained a deeper understanding about teenage online users. These readings also made me realise the importance of teaching media literacy in schools from a young age. In this blog I would like to share some information from those readings and also some of my own personal opinions.
Lenhart and Madden (2007) claim that teens are more likely to be approached by strangers online than offline. Many teens provide personal contact information and share personal messages and photos on social media sites without even knowing the level of privacy the site has or the consequences that come with presenting such information.
Teens post a variety of things on their profiles, but a first name and photo are standard.
- 82% of profile creators have included their first name in their profiles
- 79% have included photos of themselves.
- 66% have included photos of their friends.
- 61% have included the name of their city or town.
- 49% have included the name of their school.
- 40% have included their instant message screen name.
- 40% have streamed audio to their profile.
- 39% have linked to their blog.
- 29% have included their email address.
- 29% have included their last names.
- 29% have included videos.
- 2% have included their cell phone numbers.
- 6% of online teens and 11% of profile-owning teens post their first and last names on publicly-accessible profiles;
- 3% of online teens and 5% of profile-owning teens disclose their full names, photos of themselves and the town where they live in publicly-viewable profiles. (Lenhart and Madden, 2007)
Lenhart and Madden (2007) give us questions to think about surrounding this topic, they say much of the media coverage surrounding young people and online social networks has focused on the personal information teens make available on these networks. “Are they sharing information that will harm their future college or job prospects? Or worse, are they sharing information that puts them at risk of victimization?” (p.1). “Most teens believe some information seems acceptable – even desirable – to share, while other information needs to be protected” (Lenhart & Madden, 2007, p.2). Desirable information in this instance is information in the form of images, relationship status and messages, all done to make their profile on the networking site exciting in order to make new friends. On the Internet, no one knows your age, gender, address, phone number, or other personal information unless you reveal them. It may seen fun to take on the persona of somebody else with someone else on facebook or twitter however, there are major consequences when and if this virtual dialogue becomes a face to face meeting. Barnes (2006) explains that “Teens use social networking sites as a form of entertainment, but occasionally online predators use these sites to stalk victims. Several young girls have been molested by men they have met on social networking sites”.
Price, Wardman, Bruce and Millward (2013) states that nowadays teens live on social media and develop social skills through and with social networking, they are learning to live in front of a crowd. They go on to say that teens with a blog, a Facebook account or a photograph-sharing site, are being followed (possibly by complete strangers). These teenagers will be talked about but it is just what comes when they choose to upload information on networking sites. Aside from being followed by complete strangers, these strangers can also become ‘cyber criminals’ meaning that if a person shares to much personal information online or directly to a stranger, that personal information can provide instant access to financial accounts, credit record, and other assets. One way strangers, criminals or hackers get personal information online is by lying about who they are, to convince people to share account numbers, passwords, and other information so they can purchase things in your name.
The giving of personal information on social media sites and the consequence of strangers contacting teens is an issue in our society. Barnes (2006) poses a question, “In an age of digital media, do we really have any privacy?” Even though many teens have posted false information or made fake profiles the question of privacy still exists. Barnes (2006) states “Adults are concerned about invasion of privacy, while teens freely give up personal information. This occurs because often teens are not aware of the public nature of the Internet”. Barnes (2006) states that due to teenage bloggers “revealing a considerable amount of personal information, as well as multiple ways to contact them online, the danger of cyberstaking and communicating with strangers online is a serious issue”.This is probably due to the fact that many teenagers are not educated about the media.
This website provides websites and guidelines for parents and students to embark upon the path of safely surfing the Internet
I believe it is important of teachers to include media literacy in schools and teach students how to conduct themselves when on the web. Media literacy is the ability to access the media to understand and to critically evaluate different aspects of the media and media content. It can educate students on how to interact safely and conduct themselves when on the social web so that the term ‘stranger danger’ is known but not feared.
Barnes, S. B. (2006). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, 11(9). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v11i9.1394
Lenhart, A., Madden, M. (2007). Teens, privacy & online social networks: How teens manage their online identities and personal information in the age of MySpace. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. [Read: Summary of findings, pp. i-vii]
Price, E., Wardman, J., Bruce, T., & Millward, P. (2013). The tension of attention: What it means to be a gifted and talented girl in a social media-saturated world. Australasian Journal of Gifted Education, 22(2), 18-31.