MediaSmarts has been developing digital and media literacy programs and resources for Canadian homes, schools and communities since 1996.
Through their work, Media Smarts supports parents, educators and youth media professionals with information and tools so they can help children and teens develop the critical thinking skills they need for interacting with the media they love.
Building on the privacy findings from their Young Canadians in a Wired World research, this 2017 qualitative study, To Share or Not to Share, of Gen Z youth ages 13 to 16 examines the reasoning that teens apply when deciding to share photos of themselves or other people electronically.
These interviews explore the ways that reputational privacy and social norms impact teens’ decisions to post photos and investigate whether or not they actively consent to the collection and use of their personal information by the platforms they use for sharing photos. The findings of the Media Smarts study also dovetailed with my own research for my book, The Gen Z Frequency.
- Participants engaged in a number of different strategies to manage their privacy. Though a small number of photos were kept entirely private, most of the participants’ efforts were aimed at controlling who saw particular photos and preventing them from being spread to unintended audiences.
- A small number of topics were seen as not appropriate to share because they were seen as “private” (as opposed to not being shared out of fear of a negative.
- Photos containing family members were the most commonly cited as not appropriate to share because they were seen as “private”, though some participants included close friends as well.
- Snapchat, where photos are temporary by default, creates an expectation of being casual and “fun”, while Instagram’s persistent feed promotes the careful maintenance of a public-facing profile.
- When participants actively sought consent before posting photos of friends, the question was generally not “Should I share it?” but “Which one should I share?”, with the emphasis on selecting a photo in which everyone looks good according to the standards of the platform.