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Privacy, protection and social networking

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It's nearly Labor Day, and the high school and college demographic knows what that means. And this new school year also means Facebook, which statistically is so heavily integrated into school age group that it could be a required class.

My stereotype of the 18- to 24-year-old social networking crowd is party photos, videos and blog posts in questionable taste, with no concern for who might find what. All the things you know and expect from twentysomethings. And I can say that because I'm much, much older. Almost as old as the dinosaurs.

But I don't mean that all in a bad way. It's probably good Facebook didn't exist when I was an undergrad, what with keggers, motorcycles and long hair.

I assume that the social networking crowd of that demographic is still (presumably) up to wild things, but they now have the reasons and the know how to keep it under wraps on Facebook.

There is a new study out that shows awareness of privacy among the high school and college demographic is on the uptick and they are quickly becoming aware of the implications of social networking.

The paper is by First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the authors' results " ... challenge widespread assumptions that youth do not care about and are not engaged with navigating privacy."

The research shows that high percentages of that demographic have tightened up their privacy settings in 2009 and 2010, with few gender differences.

One conclusion is that the technical abilities of that crowd allows them to learn privacy controls faster than dinosaurs like me. But it also seems to show that the bad media suffered by Facebook last year might have had an impact and encouraged users to check privacy settings and turn them up notch or two. Read the abstract and article at markratledge.com/link/firstmonday.

I could do my own empirical research, but I don't want to "friend" any of my friend's teenagers to ask how they have their privacy settings set. That could be embarrassing for both sides when my friend request isn't accepted.

But many have their privacy set so only friends of friends can "friend" them. So even if I wanted to, it's doubtful I could "friend" my way into the inner circle to ask questions.

Well, that's OK. The "dinosaur demographic" has advantages other than Facebook.

Mac-Q-and-A: Working with Word Docs, markratledge.com/mac-q-and-a/

Mark Ratledge is an information technology consultant. His website is markratledge.com.

 

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