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A common role for IT is that of watch guard for users, endlessly trying to educate and train on best practices for security, privacy and regulatory compliance. Making that IT role all the more challenging is bring your own device and social networking trends; both have increasingly opened the door to users’ potential for widespread sharing of personal and company information. Is it possible that some of the training and education is becoming so mainstream that it is being echoed outside the business realm? According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report published this month, parents are acutely aware that teenagers have an online presence and 81 percent are concerned about it. Over half the parents polled were very concerned about how their teen interacts online with people they don’t know.

Online reputation is also a concern for parents of teens, with 69 percent worried about how their teen manages his or her reputation online; almost 50 percent were “very” concerned. In a separate Pew report, Privacy Management on Social Media Sites, published earlier this year, it was interesting to read that social network users are becoming more active in regard to privacy and reputation management. The report, authored by Mary Madden, was able to compare changes in behavior between 2009 and 2011. While it is not a leaping trend, all major metrics for profile management are up when it came to untagging photos (30 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2011), deleting comments (36 percent in 2009 and 44 percent in 2011) and unfriending (56 percent in 2009 and 63 percent in 2011).

Madden says that there are specific steps that users are taking to control the flow of information to different people within their network. Today, more than half of social network site users (58 percent) restrict access to their main profiles so that only friends can see it. About 19 percent of users set their profile to partially private, so that friends of friends can view it and only 20 percent of users offer their main profile to the public. Even the friends category is tiered with 26 percent using additional privacy settings to limit what certain friends can and cannot see. Women are “significantly” more likely than men to keep their profiles private.

So with these adult trends in mind, it makes sense that parents of teens feel concerned, especially with so many more adults now using online social networking sites themselves (two in three online adults maintain a profile on a social networking site, up from just 20 percent in 2006.) According to this month’s Parents, Teens and Online Privacy Pew report, 39 percent of parents of teens have helped their child set up privacy settings for a site.

It appears that as the use of social media is “growing up” our understanding of privacy and the need to prune and manage social networking site profiles might be growing up too.

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