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February 16, 2021

RiA Conference Review – part three

The big privacy debate: how do young people perceive privacy when using social media in the UK?

Chapman is a senior lecturer in Education at the University of Northampton, whose research explores young people’s behaviour online, and their perceptions of privacy. The big question overarching Chapman’s talk was ‘Does privacy exist in young people’s lives when they’re online?’ One of Chapman’s key reasons for this research was to give space for the voices of young people on an issue that is both relevant and important to them, but also to underpin a mutual understanding of how children’s experiences online can inform our practice when engaging with children and young people.

Though Social Networking Sites (SNS) have been written about for the past 25 years since their conception, Chapman highlights that these are ever evolving, and often leave the realms of young people’s lives as quickly as they enter them. Mark Zuckerberg’s famous statement “Privacy is dead” perfectly encapsulates the feelings of a worried generation of youth. Parents’ and guardians’ concerns about online safety contradict young peoples’ desires for privacy online, creating a difficult and stressful dynamic for families everywhere. Chapman found that though young people do take risks with their online identities, they also see value in their interactions, and worry about their peers more than themselves.

I asked Chapman what his response might be to schools whose only advice (to parents and students) is for students to stop using SNS altogether. Chapman replied that he found that quite sad, expressing a need for both educators and young people to be informed on the benefits and risks of using SNS. They also stated that if we knew more about young people’s perceptions and experiences online, we may have been able to support them throughout COVID in a more informed way. Social media is an irrefutable constant in many young people’s lives and, as educators, it may just be part of our job to better understand it.

Concluding thoughts

Despite it’s unconventional arrangement, the RiA virtual conference (2020) was engaging and enlightening. Davies’ keynote presentation was a highlight for many students, including myself, who felt optimistic about the concept of a truly inclusive and enriching school culture. All of the speakers’ enthusiasm for educational research and its capacity to develop our personal and professional lives was inspiring, and I believe we all left the day feeling more hopeful for teaching in 2021 and beyond.

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