55% of Kids Don't Post Some Things Because They Don't Want to Look Bad in the Future

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Pew research shows (again) that kids still care about privacy

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In our continuing series, Kids Are Not As Dumb About the Online World As You Assume, Pew Research finds that a majority of young adults have not posted something online because they thought it might negatively impact their future. This reflects the sophistication that young users bring to social media. While some youth may overshare online, the mass of kids are thinking about what they're doing. Which you'd expect because almost no one is more sensitive to social webs than kids under the age of 18.

Pew's researchers explain:

[T]he privacy-protecting behaviors of youth are complex, and involve a combination of application choice, profile settings, selective friending, and message control. Contrary to the public perception that teens and young adults simply "don't care" about their privacy online, there is growing evidence that younger users' privacy aspirations are not radically different from the views held by older adults.

Among 17-year-olds, a full 67 percent of the sample said they refrained from posting things online. Check out the metadata management by this middle school girl Pew quoted:

Like I tell all my friends who like take pictures, like, I'm like, you can't tag me in that. You can't tag anybody who's not on Facebook.

I'll also note that it benefits only social media companies to continue perpetuating the myth that kids these days have no desire for privacy. Kids and adults may differ in what they think is appropriate to put online or what they'd like to keep private, but privacy -- as a conceptual framework -- is baked into both groups.

Image: Michael D Brown/Shutterstock.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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