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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Privacy on social networking sites among Canadian teenagers Salma, Haghighat-Kashani


The widespread popularity of social networking sites (SNSs) among teenagers continually raises concerns over their safety among parents, educators, and policy makers. Although a teen's use of such platforms plays a vital role in his or her social development, such online activities lead to a plethora of personal information being shared that increases vulnerability to privacy invasion and information misuse. The employed monitoring, restriction and educational methods of privacy protection have been unsuccessful in encouraging teens to stay private on SNSs. While researchers have investigated online practices of teens, we lack a clear understanding of the rationales behind their safety and confidence on SNSs. Additionally, with the rapid emergence of new social networking applications each year and the ongoing evolution of educational school programs on privacy, a teen's notion of privacy and online behaviours are constantly evolving. As a result, a thorough exploration of online interactions and thought processes of teens can help us better understand them and consequently communicate with them. This thesis explores the perception of online privacy by Canadian teenagers (15-17 year olds) as well as their privacy-related concerns and behaviours on SNSs. To this end, semi-structured interviews were conducted with high school students (N = 20), and an online survey was completed by a more diverse pool of participants (N = 94). Based on our results, we grounded a theory that highlights our participants' broad definition of online privacy which directly relates to their online privacy concerns. These concerns shape their decision-making processes about information disclosure. Our theory highlights our participants' frequently used rationales for feeling safe online, the variety of protective measures used to address their privacy concerns, and the factors that influence their choice of SNSs. Our findings can help parents and educators gain a better understanding of a teen's perception of online privacy and interactions on SNSs. Additionally, our findings can inform the creation of better suited policies, educational approaches, and parental supervision techniques for teens.

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