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Teens’ Online Safety Improved by Education

Release date
Nov-24-2008

Contact
Jacqueline Molik Ghosen
716-645-2833
ghosen@buffalo.edu

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Think protecting young teenagers on the Internet is important? Then be sure they think it’s important, too, according to a forthcoming article in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo and University of Maryland surveyed 285 preteens and early teenagers, both male and female, to determine how important they felt it was to protect their privacy online and if those beliefs affected what actions they took to protect their privacy.

Students were asked whether they protected their personal information on the Internet, whether they opened e-mails from unknown senders and whether they downloaded files from unknown people or websites.

The researchers found that preteens and early teenagers who were educated on the importance of Internet privacy through school, parents or the media were more likely to practice online safety than those who weren’t.

Furthermore, among teachers, peers and parents, the researchers found that parents were the most influential.

A surprising result of the study was that experiencing a privacy breach online did not cause teens to improve their online safety practices, according to one of the researchers, H. R. Rao, professor of management science and systems in the UB School of Management.

“Students who experience Internet privacy breaches or computer security problems show less protective behavior on the Internet,” says Rao. “This increases the chances that they will be victims again in the future.”

The study also showed that girls tend to practice more protective behavior on the Web than boys. The researchers believe this is because girls consider online privacy more important than boys do.

The study was supported by a National Science Foundation grant. In addition to Rao, it was conducted by Sangmi Chai, doctoral candidate in UB’s Department of Management Science and Systems, Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, professor of geography at UB, Claudia Morrell, executive director, Center for Women and Information Technology at the University of Maryland, and Shambhu Upadhyaya, professor of computer science and engineering at UB.

The Wall Street Journal ranks the UB School of Management No. 9 in the nation among schools with strong regional recruiting bases. In addition, BusinessWeek ranks the school as one of the country’s top 5 business schools for the fastest return on MBA investment, and Forbes cites it as one of the best business schools in the U.S. for the return on investment it provides MBA graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit mgt.buffalo.edu.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.