University of Maryland

Parents’ and Teens’ Online Disclosures and Privacy Practices

Note: This project has been archived (2018).

Teenagers are among the heaviest users of communication technologies. Importantly, these digital natives often become immersed in a mediated lifestyle before they have begun thinking or learning about the consequences of their disclosures. There is often a disjoint between teens’ use of social apps and their comprehension of the potential risks of sharing information through them. Rather, they are often given a device like a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop with little to no time spent learning how to safely use these technologies and protect their personal data and they learn what is acceptable from peers.

While many researchers have offered point-in-time accounts of teens’ media habits, there has been a paucity of research trying to unpack (1) how norms of technology use emerge and evolve within teens’ social networks and the influence of peer networks on teens’ digital activities, (2) how teens’ navigate emerging tensions within their social groups when norm violations occur, and (3) how parents and their teen children (re)negotiate privacy rules and boundaries following incidents of turbulence. The present study will address these gaps in the literature and establish ground truth regarding the evolution of teens’ privacy and disclosure behaviors during late adolescence.

The University of Maryland’s IRB approved this study on September 28, 2016. [pdf]

As of summer 2017, the pilot study has closed after two surveys of students (January and July).



  • News

    July 2021: Vitak (along with Sarah Gilbert and Katie Shilton) published “Measuring Americans’ Comfort With Research Uses of Their Social Media Data” in the journal Social Media + Society.

    June 2021: Vitak and Zimmer had an extended abstract summarizing their workplace surveillance & COVID-19 work accepted to AoIR 2021.

    October 2020: Vitak and Zimmer published a study in First Monday on privacy concerns associated with the adoption of contact tracing apps.

    August 2020: Vitak & Zimmer were awarded a Rapid Response grant from SSRC to study how workplace surveillance is evolving due to COVID-19.

    January 2020: Vitak, Clegg, and Chetty were awarded a NSF Small grant for their work on developing privacy & security curriculum for elementary school children.

    May 2019: PhD student Kumar presented research from our kids’ safety project at CHI. The paper discusses how educators consider privacy and security when using digital technologies in the classroom. More info is here.

    March 2019: We won the Lee Dirks Award for Best Full Paper at the iConference! PhD student Liao was the lead author on the paper presenting survey results from our IPA study.