My Topics

30 March 2016

Like an Open (Face)Book - Teens With Larger Networks Feel Posting Regret More Often

Keywords: computer, internet, personality, privacy, survey, teens, tweens, North America,

Social network sites (SNS), such as Facebook, often encourage or even require users to disclose personal information, not always without regret. A study in Computers in Human Behavior investigates the factors that contribute to self-disclosure and posting-regret in teenagers who use Facebook.

Take aways

  • Teens with large online social networks including many unfamiliar friends disclose more personal information (photos, comments, etc.), but they also show more regret after posting such information. 
  • Teens who have a private online profile ("friends only") disclose less personal information. 
  • Parents and educators should help teens to become aware of the pitfalls of disclosing personal information on social network sites and of the features and settings available to protect their privacy. 
  • Social network sites could implement privacy ‘reminders’ in order to remind SNS users that other unknown people could see their personal photo's and comments they are about to disclose.

Study information

  • The question?

    Which factors determine teenagers’ self-disclosure and regret of posting something on social network sites?

  • Who?

    622 12 to17 year old SNS users (mean age: 14.94 years);
    48.9% boys (N = 304) and 51.1% girls (N = 318), whereas 89.8% was non-Hispanic (N = 556); average teens’ house income was between $40,000 and $50,000.

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    In order to investigate teenagers’ self-disclosure and regret posting on SNS, the researchers used data from a nationally representative survey, called the Teens & Privacy Management Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in 2012. The survey included questions about SNS use frequency, network size, different types of friends, trust, Facebook privacy setting and self-disclosure on Facebook, regret of posting and several demographic variables.

Facts and findings

  • Teens selectively disclosed information: while information about their relationship status, personal interests and the school name were readily shared, only 20% of teens revealed their cell-phone number.
  • Older teens and in particular boys disclosed more personal information than younger teens and girls.
  • Teenagers who used SNS more often, showed more self-disclosure and posting regret.
  • Teens with a larger network on SNS and especially those who had more strangers in their friends list reported higher levels of self-disclosure and posting regret.
  • Setting one’s profile private was related to less self-disclosure.
  • Critical Note: No conclusions can be drawn about cause (e.g. setting Facebook profile private) and effect (e.g. teens’ level of self-disclosure).