Risky Behavior Sharing in Social Networks

February 25, 2009 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

myspace-profile-risky-behavior-blue-copyA common concern about online youth is that they grossly over share information better left private, without considering the long term ramifications of divulging so much.  This is a valid concern I often hear adults echo, and an important part of developing PlumbBrain and true digital citizens in our membership is that we at OneSeventeen Media must instruct and guide youth in mindful online sharing.

Voice of America published a piece last week about youth sharing information about “risky behavior” through social networks.  The headline alone is alarming, as are the data points explaining that in two separate studies involving MySpace, a respective 41% and 100% of participants shared information on risky behaviors (which are never defined, but look to be sex, drugs, violence and alcohol).

This brief synopsis could worry any layperson unfamiliar with MySpace, but for me it raises significant questions about the data collection methods used in these studies.     

How were the youth chosen at random? Were they contacts of the researchers (thereby granting access to profile information) or random MySpace members? I would venture to guess that MySpace members with privacy settings locked so that strangers can’t see their profile information probably share less about risky behavior than those who share public profiles. I would also guess that if all the participants were contacts of an individual the subject pool would be tainted one way or the other. 

For one of the studies with Dr. Megan Moreno, the press release from the University of Wisconsin shared more saying,

“While the study examined publicly available profiles of those self-identified as 18 years and older, Moreno believes many profilers were younger, and claimed to be 18 to avoid MySpace security restrictions.” 

Again, I would assert that young people who disregard privacy tools by making their profiles public would be more likely to share about risky behavior too.  Seattle Children’s Hospital had more to share in their news release, but my questions were still not clarified.   

Also, basic profile questions about smoking, drinking and sexual orientation have been a standard part of the MySpace Profile since early on; only recently has it become optional to not include this information in your MySpace profile.  For a long while it was also not optional to leave “no response.”  If a MySpace member responded to these standard profile questions is that considered sharing about risky behavior?  Even if a young person responded that they did not smoke, did not drink and left no response on their sexual orientation, is that still considered sharing information about risky behavior?  

Providing some critical clarifying information about the execution of these studies would be helpful in assessing their validity.  If anyone has addtional insight to share about the study, I’d love to hear it!

(Graphic created from image found here)

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Entry filed under: Digital Citizenship, Kids, Millennials, News, OneSeventeen Media, PlumbBrain, Research, Social Networks. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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