Why concern regarding privacy differs: The influence of age and (non-)participation on Facebook

Special issue: Online Self-disclosure and Privacy

Young people have obtained a reputation for caring less about their privacy due to their self-revealing presence on social media. Although one might easily be inclined to think that young people do not care about their privacy, an explanation for this could be that young people simply have a different idea of what privacy entails. This study aims to investigate the underlying mechanisms that may explain differences in privacy concerns between younger and older people and between users and non-users of social network sites (SNSs). 1.008 users of SNS and 712 non-users participated in the study with a stratified distribution over adolescents, young adults, and adults. The results show that the difference in perceived risk-benefit balance partly mediates the relationship between use or non-use of SNSs and concern. SNS users are less concerned because they perceive more benefits relative to risks. Concern regarding privacy between young and old was mediated by their differences in privacy conceptions. Older individuals were more likely to associate situations related to personal information with privacy. In turn, these individuals reported more concern regarding their privacy.

Social media; privacy concerns; privacy conceptions; risk-benefit trade-off; adolescents; developmental differences
Author biographies

Wouter M. P. Steijn

Wouter Steijn obtained his masters degree in Psychology at Leiden University. In 2014 he successfully defended his doctoral thesis at Tilburg University. In his dissertation he focused on a developmental explanation for the differences in privacy perception between young and old.

Alexander P. Schouten

Alexander Schouten is an assistant professor of Digital Media at the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication. His research interests focus on online impression formation and social attraction.

Anton H. Vedder

Anton Vedder is a full-time professor of Law and IT at the KU Leuven Centre for IT and IP Law. He is also affiliated to Tilburg University. His research and teaching mainly focus on ethics and the regulation of innovative technologies.

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