Kid Insight

Common Sense finds social media privacy matters to teens

In the nonprofit's new survey, nine out of 10 parents and teens say sites need to label what data they collect and how it's used.
June 11, 2018

New research from nonprofit org Common Sense Media shows that nine out of 10 teens think it’s important that sites clearly label what data they collect and how it will be used. The research follows recent blunders by big social media companies that have unnerved young users and their parents, including the scandal surrounding political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvesting raw data from up to 87 million Facebook profiles unbeknownst to the users.

A SurveyMonkey study commissioned by Common Sense Media was conducted from May 5 to 22, 2018. The study surveyed 19,063 adults—including 3,222 parents with children between 13 and 17 years old—and 985 teenagers ages 13 to 17.

The majority, 69% of teens and 77% of parents, responded that it is “extremely important” for sites to ask permission before selling or sharing their personal information. The vast majority, 97% of parents and 93% of teens, also agree that it is at the very least, moderately important.

Very few people surveyed think that sites do a good job of explaining what they do with user’s information. Only 36% of teenagers and 25% of parents agree that social networking sites and apps actually do a good job of explaining what they do with users’ data.

On top of that, most parents and teens are concerned about ad targeting by social media sites with 82% of parents and 68% of teens saying they are at least “moderately” worried that those sites already use their data to allow advertisers to target them with ads.

Many of those surveyed have already taken action with 79% of teens saying they have changed their privacy settings on a social networking site to limit what they share with others. Parents are also concerned, with 86% changing their own privacy settings.

Despite these concerns, 30% of parents and 57% of teens reported never reading the terms of service, with 66% of parents and 65% of teens saying it’s because they are not interested in what those privacy terms have to say.

Parents of teens are far more concerned about bots on social media, with 85% saying that they are moderately to extremely concerned about the fake accounts’ influence online. Teens are less concerned, with 72% reporting they are moderately to extremely concerned.

This new data also comes on the heels of GDPR rolling out in Europe on May 25, only a few days after the survey was completed. One of the changes with the new EU data privacy and security legislation is that countries can choose at what age someone is considered a child online. In Italy, Germany and Ireland, for example, the cut-off ranges from ages 13 to 16. A number of social apps have already responded to the changes, including WhatsApp which changed its required age of use to 16 all across Europe.

About The Author
Alexandra Whyte is Kidscreen's News & Social Media Editor. Contact her at


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