Performing for one’s imagined audience: Social steganography and other privacy strategies of Estonian teens on networked publics

Special issue: Children in cyberspace: Opportunities, risks and safety

The aim of the paper is to analyse the perceptions Estonian 13-16-year-olds have about privacy and imagined audience on SNS, blogs and Instant Messenger. Semi-structured interviews (N = 15) were carried out to explore the various privacy strategies teens implement in order to manage their extended audience. The findings indicate that the majority of the teens in the sample had misperceptions about the size of their online audience. Furthermore, many of them seldom thoroughly thought about possible privacy issues when communicating on mediated publics. Although several of our interviewees confessed that they only kept the members of the “ideal audience”, i.e. close friends and schoolmates, in mind while publishing posts, others claimed to be “performing” somewhat differently in front of extended audience. Our results therefore challenge widespread assumptions that youth do not care about privacy and are not engaged in navigating privacy, as three main privacy strategies – strategic information sharing, self-censorship and social steganography – were implemented by the young interviewees.

privacy strategies; social steganography; imagined audiences; social media; teens
Author biographies

Egle Oolo

Author photo Egle Oolo, MA, recently graduated from the Institute of Journalism and Communication at the University of Tartu. Her main field of interest concerns the link between youth and ICT, with a strong emphasis on the usage of online forums and social media among the young. Her Master’s thesis explored how preteens perceive the privacy factor of various social media platforms and make use of privacy strategies.

Andra Siibak

Andra SiibakAndra Siibak, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow of Media Studies in the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Tartu. Her present research interests deal with new media audiences, generations and intergenerational relations on social media, mediation of children's ICT use and privacy on social media. Her articles have appeared in Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, Cyberpsychology, Northern Lights, Journal of Nordic Digital Literacies, Young, etc.

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