How do you feel about sharing personal info online? Teens and mobile apps privacy

mobile-privacyAs teens gain access to mobile devices, they have embraced app downloading. A recent study released by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that fact that nearly 60% of American teens have downloaded an app to a cell phone or tablet.

But, in the same time, more than half of teen apps users have avoided an app due to concerns about sharing their personal information; girls are especially likely to take steps to protect their location data.

Location information is considered especially sensitive to teen girls, as a majority of them have disabled location tracking features on cell phones and in apps because they are worried about others’ access to that information.

Key findings in a new survey of U.S. teens ages 12-17:

  • 58% of all teens have downloaded apps to their cell phone or tablet computer.
  • 51% of teen apps users have avoided certain apps due to privacy concerns.
  • 26% of teen apps users have uninstalled an app because they learned it was collecting personal information that they didn’t wish to share.
  • 46% of teen apps users have turned off location tracking features on their cell phone or in an app because they were worried about the privacy of their information

In focus group discussions with teens revelead the fact that they primarily downloaded social media and game apps to their phones and tablets, though they also downloaded apps relating to music, news, and the weather. When choosing which apps to download, participants stated that they typically downloaded free ones. mobile privacy

Survey data suggests that some of these activities vary significantly by gender. Boys stand out as the most active app downloaders, but girls are the most likely to disable location tracking features on their phones and in apps.

Boys who are mobile device owners are more likely than girls to say that they have downloaded an app to their cell phone or tablet computer (79% vs. 62%).

Among teen apps users, girls are considerably more likely than boys to say that they have disabled location tracking features (59% vs. 37%).

According to the same study, 51% of teen apps users say that they have decided not to install a cell phone or tablet app after they found out they would have to share personal information in order to use it. Younger teen apps users ages 12-13 are more likely than older teen apps users 14-17 to say that they have avoided apps due to concerns about personal information sharing (56% vs. 49%).

This report is the fifth in a series of reports issued in collaboration with the BerkmanCenter for Internet & Society at Harvard.

The findings in this report are based on a nationally representative phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17 and the survey was conducted between July 26 and September 30, 2012. In collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, this report also includes insights and quotes gathered through a series of in-person focus group interviews about privacy and digital media, with a focus on social networking sites (in particular Facebook), conducted by the Berkman Center’s Youth and Media Project between February and April 2013. The team conducted 24 focus group interviews with a total of 156 participants across the greater Boston area, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara (California), and Greensboro (North Carolina).

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