Most Kids Get Online Privacy Info from Parents, Which May Be the Problem

A new study suggests that while Canada’s kids and teens are getting the message about online privacy, the message itself could stand to be more fleshed out.

The report is the third in a series of releases by the Ottawa-based not-for-profit MediaSmarts, which champions media literacy. In it, researchers surveyed 5,400 students across the country and asked about their social media membership and habits.

They found that parents’ and teachers’ constant coaching about not sharing personally identifiable information online was working: 47% of students use anonymous or pseudonymous accounts to protect their privacy, and 97% say they’d try to have unwanted photos of themselves removed from sites. The majority don’t post their contact info, and block strangers using privacy settings.

Discouragingly, 59% of the students surveyed said they would share their social media, email or cell phone passwords with each other, with girls more likely to share passwords than boys. This renders the first two points of compliance moot, and perhaps underscores the need for the password sharing rule to be driven home a little harder.

Interestingly, most students said their parents were their primary source of information (read: lawmaking) on online privacy. 68% of students believed that a site with a privacy statement would keep their information private. Oh, youth.

Anywhere from 18% of 4th graders to 65% of 11th graders lie about their age in order to register for certain sites, likely due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that makes it prohibitively expensive for all but the most well-heeled corporations to create and maintain social sites for the under-12 set.