To share or not to share? Adolescents self-disclosure about peer relationships on Facebook : an application of the Prototype Willingness Model
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Computers in human behavior. - Elmsford, N.Y.
, p. 230-239
University of Antwerp
Adolescents are the most fervent users of social network sites, hereby disclosing a lot of personal information. In this study, we used the Prototype Willingness Model to examine whether the sharing of personal information about peer relationships follows a rational and intended pathway, or a more impulsive unconscious decision-making pathway. Data from a sample of 1314 adolescents (M = 16.68, SD = 1.16) were analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling, to assess the predictive power of the reasoned pathway (attitude and subjective norm of friends, parents and teachers), and the social-reaction pathway (prototype favorability and similarity). Results showed the unique importance of the reasoned pathway in predicting adolescents disclosing behavior, with attitude as the strongest predictor. Nevertheless, the social-reaction pathway also significantly contributed to the prediction of the disclosing behavior. In sum, adolescents self-disclosure on social network sites is mostly the result of a rational, deliberated process, but can be influenced by a more emotional spontaneous response to a given online situation. Therefore, policy makers, practitioners or parents might stress the possible opportunities and risks that disclosing personal information can entail, so adolescents themselves develop a more critical attitude toward sharing their information online.