Young people more wary about their internet image

Young people are more careful about managing their privacy online than their elders, according to the latest report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

More than two-thirds of social networking users aged between 18 and 29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online. Only 55 percent of 50-64-year-olds say the same.

“Search engines and social media sites now play a central role in building one’s identity online,” said Mary Madden, senior research specialist and lead author of the report.

“Contrary to the popular perception that younger users embrace a laissez-faire attitude about their online reputations, young adults are often more vigilant than older adults when it comes to managing their online identities.”

Young people are more likely to limit the amount of information available about them, change privacy settings, delete unwanted comments and remove their name from photos posted online, says the report.

They are also generally more mistrustful, with more than 28 percent saying they could ‘never’ trust social networking sites – double the figure for those aged 50 to 64.

Call it reputation monitoring, or call it narcissism, but people are increasingly Googling themselves. According to Pew, 57 percent of adult internet users say they have done it, up from 47 percent in 2006.

Generally, people have become less concerned about the amount of information on them available online. Just a third said this bothered them, down from 40 percent in December 2006.

It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that the research was carried out last summer, before the recent furore over privacy settings on Facebook broke out.