Older and wiser? Facebook use, privacy concern, and privacy protection in the life stages of emerging, young, and middle adulthood
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Social Media + Society
, p. 1-11
University of Antwerp
A large part of research conducted on privacy concern and protection on social networking sites (SNSs) concentrates on children and adolescents. Individuals in these developmental stages are often described as vulnerable Internet users. But how vulnerable are adults in terms of online informational privacy? This study applied a privacy boundary management approach and investigated Facebook use, privacy concern, and the application of privacy settings on Facebook by linking the results to Eriksons three stages of adulthood: emerging, young, and middle adulthood. An online survey was distributed among 18- to 65-year-old Dutch-speaking adults (N = 508, 51.8% females). Analyses revealed clear differences between the three adult age groups in terms of privacy concern, Facebook use, and privacy protection. Results indicated that respondents in young adulthood and middle adulthood were more vulnerable in terms of privacy protection than emerging adults. Clear discrepancies were found between privacy concern and protection for these age groups. More particularly, the middle adulthood group was more concerned about their privacy in comparison to the emerging adulthood and young adulthood group. Yet, they reported to use privacy settings less frequently than the younger age groups. Emerging adults were found to be pragmatic and privacy conscious SNS users. Young adults occupied the intermediate position, suggesting a developmental shift. The impact of generational differences is discussed, as well as implications for education and governmental action.