Last year, Pew Research released an analysis of how teens use social media, and how they control their privacy settings. The new data was collected in 2012, and is compared to the earlier data sample which was collected in 2006. Some of their findings are as follows:

For teenagers on their primary social network sites,

  • 91% post a photo of themselves, up from 79%.
  • 71% post their school name, up from 49%.
  • 71% post the city or town where they live, up from 61%.
  • 53% post their email address, up from 29%.
  • 20% post their cell phone number, up from 2%.
  • 92% post their real name to the profile they use most often.
  • 84% post their interests, such as movies, music, or books they like.
  • 82% post their birth date.
  • 62% post their relationship status.
  • 24% post videos of themselves.

On the privacy settings of teenagers:

  • 60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings.
  • 64% of teens with Twitter accounts say that their tweets are public, while 24% say their tweets are private.
  • 12% of teens with Twitter accounts say that they “don’t know” if their tweets are public or private.
  • While boys and girls are equally likely to say their accounts are public, boys are significantly more likely than girls to say that they don’t know (21% of boys who have Twitter accounts report this, compared with 5% of girls).

Although there were many other relevant statistics, there were few possibly alarming ones.

  • 33% of teens are Facebook friends with other people they have not met in person.
  • 19% of teens have posted updates, comments, photos, or videos that they later regretted sharing.

As the trends show, more and more people, especially teens, are becoming active online, sharing their personal information daily. Since users continue to utilize these social media sites and their volume of digital footprint increases, they should take few precautions against possible hackings or leaks of personal data. This is not only because the possibilities of user accounts being hacked exists, but also because social networking sites can and often mine your data and sell them to advertising companies for profit.

Although you cannot take much action against the latter without retiring from your digital life, many preventative steps can help minimize the risk of the former. For example, one can create a stronger password, learn how to keep your browsing, email, and chats private, and learn to control your privacy settings on social networking sites.

However, the most important tip would be to always be mindful of what you post!