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Teenage mobile users do worry about privacy, says Pew

More than half of teens polled say they have rejected certain apps over privacy concerns, according to the Pew Research Center.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Teenagers who use mobile apps do take steps to safeguard their privacy, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.

Among the teenage app users polled for the study, 51 percent said they've avoided certain apps after learning that they'd have to share personal information to use them. Teens 12 to 13 years of age were more likely to avoid such apps than were those 14 to 17 years old.

Further, 26 percent of the teens said they've uninstalled an app because they discovered it was collecting personal information that they didn't want to share. And 46 percent reporting turning off location tracking in an app or on their phone because of privacy issues.

Asked the question: "Do you ever worry about what kind of data apps are taking from your phone?," one 13-year-old female said: "I always hit 'don't allow' to use my location," while a 13-year-old male said: "Yeah, I hit don't allow when it says that [this app would like to use your current location]...unless it's very necessary for the app."

Some expressed little or no concern. One 13-year-old male said: "I usually just hit allow on everything [when installing an app]. Because I feel like [the app] would get more features. And a lot of people allow, so it's not like they're going to single out my stuff. I don't really feel worried about it."

And a 19-year-old female said: "I mean, the only thing on my phone is just pictures and messages. So it's not really like, 'oh, you're [the app company] going to take my identity or anything,' so it doesn't really matter."

Finally, teens who asked for outside advice about privacy were more likely to disable location tracking than were those who didn't. Overall, 70 percent of those polled sought outside advice. Among those, 50 percent ended up turning off the tracking feature. Among those who didn't, only 37 percent turned off the feature.

Conducted by Berkman Center's Youth and Media Project, the survey reached 156 teenagers in four different U.S. cities. That sounds like a small number on which to base a survey. But Pew explained its reasoning, saying that "although the research sample was not designed to constitute representative cross-sections of particular population(s), the sample includes participants from diverse ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds."