Teens, Social Media and Online Privacy

Social media plays a big role in teen culture today. A survey conducted by the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA) asked 14-18 year olds in North Macedonia about use of social networks and online privacy.

The survey shows that more than 99% of teens have used social media. On average, teens are online more than 5 hours a day. When it comes to which one of the online platforms teens use the most, the vast majority say they visit Instagram (97.57%), TikTok (73.69%) or Snapchat (71.27%) most often.

Despite the nearly ubiquitous presence of social media in their lives, there is no clear consensus among teens about what to do if they experience violation of personal data online. A plurality of teens (88%) believe they know how to act if their personal data is misused, but the responses vary in terms of where they will report such case. Roughly three-in-ten teens say they will report the case to the police or their parents and teachers, while 12% don’t know where they can report.

Youngsters are also aware that social media platforms can be the place for cyberbullying and online gender-based violence. Some young people report that they were subject to online harassment or that their photos were published online without their permission (12%).

When asked if they know someone (classmate, friend, acquaintance) who has suffered online gender-based violence and to explain in their own words, many teens emphasize the negative aspects of the use of social media:

“In games sometimes there is a call option for you to speak with people you might not know. Sometimes people say rude things to the other people they are talking to just because of their gender.”

“I have had some friends experience it and that made me feel a bit helpless because there was nothing I could do except be there for them through that time.”

“Many sexist comments on TikTok and Instagram which are highly inappropriate.”

MYLA conducts the survey within the Project “Your Privacy is Your Freedom” supported by the American Bar Association – Rule of Law Initiative. This article covers some of the main preliminary findings from the survey conducted among students in four high schools in February 2022. At the time of publishing, there were 825 respondents. The detailed findings will be published in March.

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