Exploring the Usefulness of School Education About Risks on Social Network Sites: A Survey Study

The Journal of Media Literacy Education
Ellen Vanderhoven, Tammy Schellens, Martin Valcke

The growing popularity of social network sites (SNS) is causing concerns about privacy and security, especially with teenagers, since they show various forms of unsafe behavior on SNS. It has been put forth by researchers, teachers, parents, and teenagers that school is ideally placed to educate teens about risks on SNS and to teach youngsters how to use SNS safely. Privacy attitudes also need to be taken into account if we want to decrease the amount of unsafe behavior. However, there is a lack of research that focuses on the role and impact of school education on privacy attitudes or actual safe behavior on SNS. To counter this shortcoming, a survey study was set up with 638 pupils exploring teenagers’ attitudes towards privacy on SNS. The first question was: Do they care about their privacy? Next to that, the extent to which they show unsafe behavior on SNS was questioned. Finally, the impact that school education has on both privacy care and the safety of teenagers’ behavior on SNS was studied. It was found that teenagers do not care much for their privacy, and that a lack of privacy care leads to unsafe behavior on SNS. However, school education has a positive impact on privacy care, and by raising privacy care it also has an indirect positive impact on the safety of pupils’ behavior. Our results suggest, therefore, that more efforts for school education about safer use of SNS are important, especially since the attention for the topic in schools is still found to be extremely limited and not organized in the curriculum. Practical implications are discussed.

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