Many teens actually take their online privacy seriously, survey finds

Teenagers use computers at the Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center in Los Angeles.
Teenagers use computers at the Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center in Los Angeles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Teens may be ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting privacy on mobile apps and devices.

And the younger they are, the more cautious they are about their personal information online.

That’s according to a new survey from Pew Research Center’s Internet project.

It found that more than half of American teens have downloaded an app to a mobile phone or tablet computer, but more than half of those teens have avoided an app over privacy concerns. And 26% of teen apps users have uninstalled an app after learning it was collecting personal information they did not want to share.

Teen girls are especially likely to take steps to protect their location data, Pew reported. A majority of teen girls have disabled location tracking features on mobile phones and in apps because they worry about people having access to that information.


“Teens are on the front lines of figuring out the complex world of privacy management of on their mobile devices,” said Mary Madden, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and lead author of the report. “They realize that cell phones can be used to monitor their whereabouts, and they will avoid apps if they feel like the data requests are unnecessary or excessive.”

Half of teen apps users say that they have decided not to install a mobile phone or tablet app after discovering they would have to share personal information to use it.

One of the most interesting data points: Younger teens –- ages 12 and 13 –- are more likely than older teens to avoid apps due to privacy concerns.

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