Educating teens about the risks on social network sites. an intervention study in secondary education.

The growing popularity of social network sites (SNS) is causing concerns about privacy and security, especially with teenagers since they show various forms of unsafe behavior on SNS. Media literacy emerges as a priority, and researchers, teachers, parents and teenagers all point towards the responsibility of the school to educate teens about risks on SNS and to teach youngsters how to use SNS safely. However, existing educational materials are not theoretically grounded, do not tackle all the specific risks that teens might encounter on SNS and lack rigorous outcome evaluations. Additionally, general media education research indicates that although changes in knowledge are often obtained, changes in attitudes and behavior are much more difficult to achieve. Therefore, new educational packages were developed –taking into account instructional guidelines- and a quasi-experimental intervention study was set up to find out whether these materials are effective in changing the awareness, attitudes or the behavior of teenagers on SNS. It was found that all three courses obtained their goal in raising the awareness about the risks tackled in this course. However, no impact was found on attitudes towards the risks, and only a limited impact was found on teenagers’ behavior concerning these risks. Implications are discussed.

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