Teens posting personal info: Study

For their safety online, kids have been cautioned for years not to give out personal information online. Well, we now know from researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center that giving out such info isn't in itself a safety risk (see "New approach to online-safety education suggested"). We now have further insights into teens' info-sharing practices in the Journal of Adolescence. Here's what Profs. Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja found: "Many youth have recently embraced online social networking sites such as MySpace to meet their social and relational needs. While manifold benefits stem from participating in such web-based environments, the popular media has been quick to demonize MySpace even though an exponentially small proportion of its users have been victimized due to irresponsible or naïve usage of the technology it affords. Major concerns revolve around the possibility of sexual predators and pedophiles finding and then assaulting adolescents who carelessly or unwittingly reveal identifiable information on their personal profile pages. The current study sought to empirically ascertain the type of information youth are publicly posting through an extensive content analysis of randomly sampled MySpace profile pages." Among other things, Patchin and Hinduja found that…

* 8.8% revealed their full name.
* 57% included a picture.
* 27.8% listed their school.
* 0.3% provided their telephone number.

They concluded that "the problem of personal information disclosure on MySpace may not be as widespread as many assume, and that the overwhelming majority of adolescents are responsibly using the web site." Here's the very long link to their article.

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