Of Course Teens Think About Privacy, They Have Parents

Big Mother drives teens' privacy settings
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More than 50 percent of teen app users have avoided downloading apps because of privacy concerns, according to a new Pew Internet Project and Berkman Center poll of teenagers.

Another 26 percent have deleted an app "because they found out it was collecting personal information that they didn't wish to share." And 59 percent of teen girls have turned off location-tracking in apps.

Teens are also the driving force behind ephemeral apps like Snapchat and Whisper, which don't force their users to maintain a singular, archived identity.

Pew researcher Mary Madden told the Wall Street Journal that "teens tend to think about privacy in the sense of 'social privacy' or whether an app is 'creepy' ... not in terms of advertising or governmental surveillance like adults do."

Which makes perfect sense. For teens, parents are, by far, the most intrusive and controlling force in their lives. If they're trying to preserve an independent sphere of thought and action, it's from their guardians, not the state.

Nonetheless, whatever privacy-protecting habits the younger set forms now may serve them well in the future.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called 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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