Age differences in privacy attitudes, literacy and privacy management on Facebook

Special issue: Online Self-disclosure and Privacy

Privacy has been identified as a hot button issue in literature on Social Network Sites (SNSs). While considerable research has been conducted with teenagers and young adults, scant attention has been paid to differences among adult age groups regarding privacy management behavior. With a multidimensional approach to privacy attitudes, we investigate Facebook use, privacy attitudes, online privacy literacy, disclosure, and privacy protective behavior on Facebook across three adult age groups (18-40, 41-65, and 65+). The sample consisted of an online convenience sample of 518 adult Facebook users. Comparisons suggested that although age groups were comparable in terms of general Internet use and online privacy literacy, younger groups were more likely to use SNSs more frequently, use Facebook for social interaction purposes, and have larger networks. Also, younger adults were more likely to self-disclose and engage in privacy protective behaviors on Facebook. In terms of privacy attitudes, older age groups were more likely to be concerned about privacy of other individuals. In general, all dimensions of privacy attitudes (i.e., belief that privacy is a right, being concerned about one’s privacy, belief that one’s privacy is contingent on others, being concerned about protecting privacy of others) were positively correlated with engagement in privacy protective behavior on Facebook. A mediation model demonstrated that amount of disclosure mediated the relationship between age groups and privacy protective behavior on Facebook. Finally, ANCOVA suggested that the impact of privacy attitudes on privacy protective behavior was stronger among mature adults. Also, unlike older age groups, among young adults, considering privacy as a right or being concerned about privacy of other individuals had no impact on privacy protective behavior.

Privacy attitudes; privacy literacy; privacy management; self-disclosure; Facebook; age differences
Author biographies

Murat Kezer

Murat Kezer (B.A. Boğaziçi University, 2015) is currently a graduate student at the Department of Psychology, at Koç University in Turkey. His current research interests are dynamics of social media, interpersonal perception, and particularly first impressions.

Barış Sevi

Barış Sevi (B.A. Bilkent University, 2015) is currently a graduate student at the Department of Psychology, at Koç University in Turkey. His current research focuses on interpersonal relations and attitudes in social media.

Zeynep Cemalcilar

Zeynep Cemalcilar (Ph.D. University of Texas, 2003) is Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, at Koç University in Turkey. She is interested in studying social psychological theories and issues as processes applied to real world situations. Her recent research also focuses on understanding the dynamics of social media and use of technology in the social life.

Lemi Baruh

Lemi Baruh (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication, 2007) is Associate Professor at the Department of Media and Visual Arts, at Koç University in Turkey. His research interests include new media technologies, surveillance, privacy—especially related to attitudes about privacy—and culture of voyeurism.

Acquisti, A., & Gross, R. (2006). Imagined communities: Awareness, information sharing, and privacy on the Facebook. Privacy Enhancing Technologies, 4258, 36–58.

Ajzen, I. (2001). Nature and operation of attitudes. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 27–58.

Almakrami, H. A. (2015). Online self-disclosure across cultures: A study of Facebook use. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Queensland University of Technology.

Arjan, R., Pfeil, U., & Zaphiris, P. (2008). Age differences in online social networking. In In CHI’08 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2739–2744). New York, NY: ACM.

Arnett, J. J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York: Oxford University Press.

Barnes, S. (2006). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, 11(9).

Bartsch, M., & Dienlin, T. (2016). Control your Facebook: An analysis of online privacy literacy. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 147–154.

Baruh, L., & Cemalcılar, Z. (2014). It is more than personal: Development and validation of a multidimensional privacy orientation scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 70, 165-170.

Baruh, L., & Popescu, M. (2015). Big data analytics and the limits of privacy self-management. New Media & Society, 2015. Advanced online publication.

Bazarova, N. N., & Choi, Y. H. (2014). Self-disclosure in social media: Extending the functional approach to disclosure motivations and characteristics on social network sites. Journal of Communication, 64, 635–657.

Blank, G., Bolsover, G., & Dubois, E. (2014). A new privacy paradox: Young people and privacy on social network sites. Oxford Internet Institute. Retrieved from

Bolton, R. N., Parasuraman, A., Hoefnagels, A., Kabadayi, S., Gruber, T., Loureiro, Y. K., … Solnet, D. (2013). Understanding Generation Y and their use of social media: A review and research agenda. Journal of Service Management, 24, 245–267.

boyd, d., & Hargittai, E. (2010). Facebook privacy settings : Who cares ? First Monday, 15(8). Retrieved from

Brandtzæg, P. B., Lüders, M., & Skjetne, J. H. (2010). Too many Facebook “friends”? Content sharing and sociability versus the need for privacy in social network sites. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 26, 1006–1030.

Chang, P. F., Choi, Y. H., Bazarova, N. N., & Löckenhoff, C. E. (2015). Age differences in online social networking: Extending socioemotional selectivity theory to social network sites. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 59, 221–239.

Chen, G. M. (2011). Tweet this: A uses and gratifications perspective on how active Twitter use gratifies a need to connect with others. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 755-762.

Christofides, E., Muise, A., & Desmarais, S. (2009). Information disclosure and control on Facebook: Are they two sides of the same coin or two different processes? CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12, 341–345.

Christofides, E., Muise, A., & Desmarais, S. (2012). Hey mom, what’s on your Facebook? Comparing Facebook disclosure and privacy in adolescents and adults. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 48–54.

Davies, S. G. (1997). Re-engineering the right to privacy: How privacy has been transformed from a right to a commodity. In P. E. Agre & M. Rotenberg (Eds.), Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape (pp. 143–166). Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Debatin, B., Lovejoy, J. P., Horn, A. K., & Hughes, B. N. (2009). Facebook and online privacy: Attitudes, behaviors, and unintended consequences. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15, 83–108.

Dienlin, T., & Trepte, S. (2015). Is the privacy paradox a relic of the past? An in-depth analysis of privacy attitudes and privacy behaviors. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 285–297.

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Life cycle. In D. L. Sills & R. K. Merton (Eds.), International encyclopedia of the social sciences, Vol. 9 (pp. 286-292). New York, NY: The Macmillan Company.

Gibbs, J. L., Ellison, N. B., & Lai, C. H. (2011). First comes love, then comes Google: An investigation of uncertainty reduction strategies and self-disclosure in online dating. Communication Research, 38, 70–100.

Glasman, L. R., & Albarracín, D. (2006). Forming attitudes that predict future behavior: A meta-analysis of the attitude-behavior relation. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 778–822.

Hayes, A. F., & Preacher, K. J. (2014). Statistical mediation analysis with a multicategorical independent variable. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 67, 451-470.

Hollenbaugh, E. E., & Ferris, A. L. (2014). Facebook self-disclosure: Examining the role of traits, social cohesion, and motives. Computers in Human Behavior, 30, 50–58.

Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11, 213-218.

Hoofnagle, C., King, J., Li, S., & Turow, J. (2010). How different are young adults from older adults when it comes to information privacy attitudes & policies.

Jensen, J. L., & Sørensen, A. S. (2013). Nobody has 257 Friends. Nordicom Review, 34(1), 49–62.

Jin, S. A. A. (2013). Peeling back the multiple layers of Twitter’s private disclosure onion: The roles of virtual identity discrepancy and personality traits in communication privacy management on Twitter. New Media & Society, 15, 813-833.

Joinson, A., Reips, U. D., Buchanan, T., & Schofield, C. B. P. (2010). Privacy, trust, and self-disclosure online. Human-Computer Interaction, 25(1), 1–24.

Kail, R., & Cavanaugh, J. (2010). Human development: A life-span view. Cengage Learning.

Krasnova, H., Spiekermann, S., Koroleva, K., & Hildebrand, T. (2010). Online social networks: Why we disclose. Journal of Information Technology, 25, 109–125.

Lewis, K., Kaufman, J., & Christakis, N. (2008). The taste for privacy: An analysis of college student privacy settings in an online social network. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14, 79–100.

Litt, E. (2013). Understanding social network site users’ privacy tool use. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1649–1656.

Liu, C., Ang, R. P., & Lwin, M. O. (2013). Cognitive, personality, and social factors associated with adolescents’ online personal information disclosure. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 629–638.

Livingstone, S. (2008).Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: Teenager’s use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self- expression. New Media & Society, 10, 393-411.

Livingstone, S., Ólafsson, K., & Staksrud, E. (2011). Social networking, age and privacy. London: EU Kids Online. Retrieved from

Maaß, W. (2011). The elderly and the Internet: How senior citizens deal with online privacy. In S. Trepte & L. Reinecke (Eds.), Privacy online perspectives on privacy and self-disclosure in the social web (pp. 235–249). Heidelberg: Springer.

Marwick, A. E., & boyd, d. (2014). Networked privacy: How teenagers negotiate context in social media. New Media & Society, 16, 1051–1067.

McAndrew, F. T., & Jeong, H. S. (2012). Who does what on Facebook? Age, sex, and relationship status as predictors of Facebook use. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 2359–2365.

Nosko, A., Wood, E., & Molema, S. (2010). All about me: Disclosure in online social networking profiles: The case of Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 406–418.

Papacharissi, Z. (2010). A private sphere: Democracy in a digital age. Polity.

Park, Y. J. (2011). Digital literacy and privacy behavior online. Communication Research, 40, 215–236.

Perrin, A. (2015). 65% of adults now use social networking sites – A nearly tenfold jump in the past decade. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2011). Adolescents’ online privacy: Toward a developmental perspective. In S. Trepte & L. Reinecke (Eds.), Privacy online: Perspectives on privacy and self-disclosure in the social web (pp. 221–234). Heidelberg: Springer.

Petronio, S. (2002) Boundaries of privacy: Dialectics of disclosure. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Solove, D. J. (2013, June 13). Five myths about privacy. Washington Post.

Steijn, W. M. P. (2014). A developmental perspective regarding the behaviour of adolescents, young adults, and adults on social network sites. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 8(2), article 5.

Taddicken, M. (2014). The “Privacy Paradox” in the social web: The impact of privacy concerns, individual characteristics, and the perceived social relevance on different forms of self-disclosure. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19, 248–273.

Trepte, S., Teutsch, D., Masur, P. K., Eicher, C., Fischer, M., Hennhöfer, A., & Lind, F. (2015). Do People know about privacy and data protection strategies? Towards the “Online Privacy Literacy Scale” (OPLIS). In S. Gutwirth, R. Leenes, & P. de Hert (Eds.), Reforming European Data Protection Law (Vol. 20, pp. 333–365). Springer Netherlands.

Trepte, S., Dienlin, T., & Reinecke, L. (2014). Risky behaviors: How online experiences influence privacy behaviors. Von Der Gutenberg-Galaxis Zur Google-Galaxis. From the Gutenberg Galaxy to the Google Galaxy.

Tufekçi, Z. (2012). Facebook, youth and privacy in networked publics. In Proceedings of the Sixth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (pp. 338–345).

Turow, J., & Hennessy, M. (2007). Internet privacy and institutional trust: Insights from a national survey. New Media & Society, 9, 300–318.

Urista, M., Dong, Q., & Day, K. (2009). Explaining why young adults use MySpace and Facebook through uses and gratifications theory. Human Communication, 12, 215–229.

Van den Broeck, E., Poels, K., & Walrave, M. (2015). Older and wiser? Facebook use, privacy concern, and privacy protection in the life stages of emerging, young, and middle adulthood. Social Media+ Society, 1(2).

Vitak, J. (2012). The impact of context collapse and privacy on social network site disclosures. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56, 451–470.

Walrave, M., Vanwesenbeeck, I., & Heirman, W. (2012). Connecting and protecting? Comparing predictors of self-disclosure and privacy settings use between adolescents and adults. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 6(1), article 3.

Walton, S. C., & Rice, R. E. (2013). Mediated disclosure on Twitter: The roles of gender and identity in boundary impermeability, valence, disclosure, and stage. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1465–1474.

Whiting, A., & Williams, D. (2013). Why people use social media: A uses and gratifications approach. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 16, 362-369.

Wilson, R. E., Gosling, S. D., & Graham, L. T. (2012). A review of Facebook research in the social sciences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 203–220.

Wrzus, C., Hänel, M., Wagner, J., & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Social network changes and life events across the life span: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 139, 53-80.

Yang, L., & Tan, B. C. Y. (2012). Self-disclosure on online social networks: motives, context feature, and media capabilities. In Thirty Third International Conference on Information Systems (pp. 1–11).

Zhang, Y., & Leung, L. (2014). A review of social networking service (SNS) research in communication journals from 2006 to 2011. New Media & Society, 17, 1007–1024.


web of science logo




PDF views