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Youngsters are sharing more than ever online, schools survey finds

Yui Mok/PA Wire

Youngsters are more aware of privacy controls online, but are sharing more of their lives than ever, the annual Privacy Awareness School Survey has found.

Students from Years 5 to 11 were quizzed on their social media usage, their use of privacy controls and how much they share.

The survey carried out by the Information Commissioner this year found there has been a significant rise in the use of social media post photos and videos by Year 5 students and Year 11 students compared to last year.

“Students who post photos or videos may end up sharing more information about themselves than they realise, especially if the photos or videos uploaded are of a personal nature, featuring themselves, friends, or family members,” the Information Commissioners report said.

The survey found that almost a quarter of the Year 11 Students’ and 19% Year 5 Students following shared photos or videos daily.

“68% of all students use SNS [Social Networking Sites] to post photos/videos every day, the highest percentage since the Information Commissioner began collating information for surveys,” the report said.

The Information Commissioner’s report detailed how there has been a slight increase in usage of social media amongst the Year 5 Students, compared to last year’s results.

“Whilst the use of SNS is seemingly popular amongst all year groups, the Information Commissioner views the high usage amongst Year 5 Students as an ongoing concern, given that most SNS are designed for individuals over the age of 13.”

The report added that students are generally becoming more and more aware of the importance of privacy controls, and while this is positive, greater awareness should be afforded to the younger age groups.

Some 32% of the Year 5 Students surveyed in 2020/21 claim that they do not use privacy controls when using social media which, for the second year running, is the age category with the least protection.

WhatsApp remains the most popular SNS used by all students and Instagram appears to have decreased in popularity this year, with Facebook remaining the least popular SNS.

Video sharing app TikTok has seen a significant increase of 18% from its initial appearance in 2019/20, the report founds.

Some of the key findings as found within the report include the fact that almost all students surveyed use social networking sites and social networking sites are used daily but mostly for private messaging and its use grows as students get older.

The survey also found a consistent, increased use of privacy controls for all students, but there exists a continued risk to privacy from “media rich” social networking sites.

“Year 5 students are the most cautious when installing a new app on a mobile device.”

It added: “Over 50% of Year 5 students seek consent before posting personal data about others on social networking sites.”

The survey also recognised the combined percentage of students who are generally aware of privacy controls is moderately high.

“The use of Social Networking Sites has expanded exponentially since its arrival in the early 2000s,” the report said.

“With this, the Information Commissioner recognises that the influx of personal data being posted online has put privacy at the forefront of discussion.”

“Whilst the slight improvements in privacy practices are welcomed by the Information Commissioner, the concerns that remain will require further examination in years to come.”

“It is therefore appropriate and necessary to continue monitoring the user habits of all students, and more specifically, to support the younger generations in their understanding of the importance of data protection and privacy-related matters.”

A total of 892 students between the ages of 9 and 16 completed this year’s Survey, which was carried out between November 2020 and March 2021.

The sample size for the 2019/20 academic year was considerably larger, with a total of 1421 students taking part.

The significant drop in sample size this year is Covid-19 related, given that there were certain restrictions in place which hindered the dissemination, completion and collection of the surveys and a period of school closure.

The full report is available to download from the GRA’s website: https://www.gra.gi/data-protection/public-awareness

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