Literature Review on Influence of Social Media

Literature Review on Influence of Social Media on Online Privacy


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Social media has taken on a more prominent role in our daily life. Not only adults, but also young children have become accustomed to using social media on a daily basis.  Children are often not aware of the danger that social media can bring, and do not consider the consequences of the information that they put online. (Madden M. L., 2013)

This literature review will be looking for a direct correlation between frequent social media use at a young age and the sense of online privacy. Online privacy can be identified as the ability to control what information you reveal about yourself over the Internet, and to control who could access that information (KWHS, 2015).  In order to make a conscious decision regarding where your personal online privacy boundary is, one must know what the possible consequences could be. 

However, the government of the United States of America has yet to launch a campaign that warns children on the effect of excessive social media usage with regards to their online privacy. Children have to be made aware of how their social media behaviour could influence their self-image, their willingness to share confidential information and their online security. 

Therefore, this research will provide information regarding the possible effects of social media and how the government should create awareness among children in the United States. The paper is structured as follows: a literature review will provide some context regarding the current knowledge of possible impacts of social media usage, followed by extensive research in order to answer the sub-questions and the main research question. Finally a discussion and conclusion will be taken from this review and a recommendation for further research will be given. 

RQ: What is the impact of frequently using social media platforms on the sense of online privacy among children under the age of 18 years old in the United States of America?

SQ 1: From which age and with which frequency do children generally start using social media? 

SQ 2: Which social media platforms are most commonly used among children in the United States?

SQ 3: What could impact a child’s motivations to consciously decide to share personal details on social media?

SQ 4: To what extent is the target group consciously in control of their online privacy?



Social media networks have the moral obligation to protect under age children from the dangers that come with using their services and have therefore put age limits in place. Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat have put a minimum age of 13 years old on the use of their services (Jamieson, 2016). This age restriction serves to protect children’s privacy online according to the US law COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) which has been in place since 1998 (Coughlan, 2016). 

Nevertheless though, are more than 75% of children under the age of 13 active on at least on social media network. The most popular social media networks children are active on under the age of 13 are Facebook and Instagram with 49% and 41% using those networks respectively (Jamieson, 2016). 

Teens, who are legally old enough to access social media networks and make use of them, often have multiple accounts with platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter as they all serve different purposes and uses. On average they spend almost 200 minutes a day on their mobile device accessing social media networks. This translates to almost 3,5 hours each and every day (Statista, 2017).  The most important network to American teens are Snapchat (47%), Instagram (24%) and Twitter (7%) (Statista, 2017). These numbers indicate that young children and teens value different social media networks than adults as the most used social networking app remains Facebook with more than 159 million American users every month and Facebook Messenger with over 103 million American users (Statista, 2018). 

In general, children start using social media networks earlier than is legally allowed with a high frequency from the start. Even though networks have their restrictions in place, children still manage to access their services. Limitation of usage could be through stricter parental control but “parents can no longer protect children by simply trying to limit their online experience. Instead parents need to maintain an open dialogue. (Reporter, 2014) ”


Children are using different social media platforms for different purposes.  In the previous sub question, it is stated that the most popular platforms among teens are Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. This is a major shift from a few years ago when Facebook was still the most dominant platform among children. 

The average American teen has 300 friends on Facebook and is more likely to share information with a large following than with a smaller following. Around 93% of teen Facebook users have shared their real name on the platform and 92% has shared photos of themselves. This is information is not considered to be privacy sensitive but information such as personal cell phone numbers can be. Of all teen Facebook users, 21% has shared this personal detail with others. If we look specifically at users with an average of 300-600 followers, 30% of them have shared their personal cell phone number. We can conclude that sensitive private information is being shared among a large portion of teen users of this platform (Pew Research Center, 2013). 

Currently Facebook is no longer the most popular platform among children. Instead Instagram and Snapchat have taken over the social media landscape for this age demographic. These platforms are designed for sharing of visuals, namely photos and videos. Therefore, children are now sharing more of this content with their friends.  In a research done in 2013, researchers found that 94% of teens confessed to sharing photos of themselves while only 24% confessed to sharing videos of themselves. (Pew Research Center, 2013)

Overall teens are most present on social networks Snapchat and Instagram where the sharing of visuals are the most important. The sharing of information like their name, age and cell phone numbers has become increasingly more normal and starts at a younger age. 


According to O’Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson the use of social media can have great advantages to the development of children and adolescents. They state that “engaging in various forms of social media has been shown to enhance communication, social connection and even technical skills. (O’Keeffe MD & Clarke-Pearson MD, 2011) It is also mentioned that teens now get the ability to accomplish tasks that are most important to them which are staying connected to friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas.  

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states similar advantages to children using social media.  Some potential benefits that are stated are: 1) staying connects to friends and family, 2) developing new social contact with peers with similar interests, 3) developing and expressing your individual identity and 4) sharing content of self-expression such as art work, music, and political views. (AACAP, 2017)

Two renowned American institutes both argue that the usage of social media can be beneficial to children and adolescents. In a research done by Lee it was discovered that time spent on social media can positively impact connection to friends. Frequent online communication can be associated to cohesive friendship although it also related negatively to time spent interacting with parents (Lee, 2009).  

This finding was supported by Wellman et al. (2001) and Shklovski et al. (2004) as they also stated that online communication could enhance the quality of friendship and possibly the cohesiveness of friendships (Wellman, 2001) (Shklovski, 2005). 

Social media presence can be essential to children as they benefit social development and the development of vital friendships, but the limitations should be considered as to how often a child will be using social media for that sole purpose.  



Although a lot of benefits to using social media are mentioned in the previous sub-question, some risks are given as a side note.  Examples of those risks are cyber-bullying, sharing photos or video that you later regret, risk of identity theft and sharing too much information. (AACAP, 2017)

In a report written by Kang (1998) he explains that as soon as one accesses the Internet, he or she chooses to share personal information. According to him, personal information is not directly related to sensitive and private information but rather content that can be identified by an individual.  Information privacy therefore can be of great value to children who do not yet see the dangers of sharing personal information as it gives “an individual a claim to control the terms under which personal information— information identifiable to the individual— is acquired, disclosed, and used.” (Kang, 1998)
Beye, M., Jeckmans, A., Erkin, Z., Hartel, P., Lagendijk, R., and Tang, Q. (2010) state that information privacy can be categorized into two main categories: privacy from other users and privacy from providers. Children often assume that their information will be kept private, while it is being used by providers to gain insights. They therefore can only truly control their information regarding the visibility towards other users. (Beye et al. 2010) 
In order to prevent children from running into the before mentioned risks one must consider that online networks are “specifically designed to encourage the sharing of information and the expansion of networks (Madden et al. 2013)”. Nevertheless are children more aware of privacy settings therefore increasing their ability to manage their networks and shape their reputation (Madden et al. 2013). They still seek advice though from friends (42%), parents (41%) and siblings (37%) (Lenhart, 2013).

Online privacy and information privacy are irrevocably intertwined with the usage of social media networks and will therefore remain to pose as a risk to children using those networks even though knowledge regarding managing one’s privacy is increasing among children.


As discussed in the sub-questions, and to answer the research question, possible impacts of frequent social media use as a child, are 

Further research can be done on possible differences between boys and girls under the age of 18 regarding their social media behaviour.