Flemish teens don’t protect their privacy online


A study by Flemish universities has confirmed that young internet users are not savvy enough when it comes to protecting their privacy when using social media and mobile phone apps

Self-censorship needed

Research shows that young people in Flanders have too little knowledge of the mechanisms of social media and don’t have the skills to effectively protect their privacy online.

This is one of the main conclusions of the User Empowerment in a Social Media Culture project, carried out over the last four years by six research groups from the Flemish universities of Ghent, Leuven (KU Leuven) and Brussels. The research is financed by Flanders’ agency for innovation through science and technology, IWT.

The project focused on social media from three angles: privacy, social media literacy and inclusion. The main purpose was to find out if people can be “empowered” through the use of social media.

According to the study, young people don’t think they are vulnerable to the consequences of sharing personal information via social media, despite the fact that only half the participating 18-year-olds read the privacy settings for mobile or Facebook apps. Furthermore, 83% don’t realise how much access apps have to information, while a third are not able to recognise all advertisements on Facebook.

“What youngsters – just like many adults – often don’t realise is that social media sites sell their users’ personal data to third parties,” Jo Pierson, a researcher at KU Leuven, told De Morgen. Only four in 10 youngsters were aware of this. “It’s a very complex process,” he explained. “For example, data from friends is used to target ads on Facebook or other social media.”

According to Pierson, it is important to control strictly what information you share. “People have to apply self-censorship; they have to realise how media work and adapt their use of it to that.”


photo: IngImage