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Age Differences of Attitude to Privacy on Social Media

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There is a growing literature on teenage and young adult users’ attitudes toward and concerns about online privacy, yet little is known about older adults and their unique experiences

As older adults join the digital world in growing numbers, we need to gain a better understanding of how they experience and navigate online privacy.

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SNSs tap a large and diverse network of relationships typically exceeding the size of traditional estimates of active social relations in an offline network. However, many of these online relationships are weak or superficial, and some of them are no longer active. Compared to younger MySpace users, older adults have smaller networks with more diverse age distributions. As personal relationships reflect peoples’ salient social motivations and since motivational priorities change with age, the size and composition of online social networks may reflect age-related goal shifts. Understanding such effects is important because network characteristics affect behaviors such as information sharing (e.g., what is shared, how it is shared, and with whom it is shared)

For example, the size and composition of one’s network may result in differing levels of knowledge gain and social norm awareness, which affect overall well-being and socialization. Despite these contradictory results, the underlying reasons for possible differences in privacy concern between younger and older people and users and nonusers have hardly been explored. However, understanding exactly why younger people report less concern can be useful, for example, for legislators and policy makers, as well as for internet entrepreneurs.

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However, not all individuals will necessarily hold a privacy conception that focusses solely on personal information (Steijn & Vedder, 2015). In fact, we argue that this may present an essential difference in the privacy conceptions that young people and old people hold

Steijn & Vedder (2015) investigated the privacy conception of adolescents (12- to 19-year-olds), young adults (20- to 30-year olds), and adults (31-years-old and older). They asked respondents which situations, related to autonomy, relationships, personal space, or personal information, they associated with privacy in order to determine the privacy conceptions. Two important differences were reported in that study. Relatively more adolescents associated privacy with situations involving relationships, for example being able to be alone with a partner or friend, whereas relatively more adults associated privacy with those situations that involve personal information, for example, the government collecting data. Here we will focus primarily on the personal information aspect of privacy since this aspect had a stronger relationship with concern regarding privacy while the relational aspect of privacy was only marginally related to concern (Steijn & Vedder, 2015).

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Usually, with social media becoming an integral part of the lives of millions, little is known about the intersection of social media and the older population. How do older adults perceive social media? How might their perception of social media affect their learning of the technology? Motivated by these important and timely research questions, and in lack of existing evidence, we conducted an exploratory study examining older adults’ perception of social media and educational strategies for effective learning of social media applications by older adults.

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Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. (2011). Adolescents’ online privacy: Toward a developmental perspective. In S. Trepte & L. Reinecke (Eds.), Privacy online (pp. 221-234). Heidelberg: Springer.

Schermelleh-Engel, K., Moosbrugger, H., & Müller, H. (2003). Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: Tests of significance and descriptive goodness-of-fit measures. Methods of Psychological Research Online, 8, 23-74.

Steijn, W. M. P. (2014a). A developmental perspective regarding the behaviour of adolescents, young adults, and adults on social network sites. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 8(2), article 5.

Boneva, B.S., Quinn, A., Kraut, R.E., Kiesler, S., & Shklovski, I. (2006). Teenage communication in the instant messaging era. In R. Kraut, M. Brynin, & S. Kiesler (Eds.), Computers, phones, and the Internet: Domesticating information technology (pp. 201-218). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Acquisti, A., & Gross, R. (2006). Imagined communities: awareness, information sharing, and privacy on the Facebook. 6th Workshop on Privacy Enhancing Technologies. Cambridge, UK.

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