Sharing Personal Information Online: Are Young People Doing Too Much?

We talk a lot about the differences between digital natives and older generations, who came of age long before the internet. That’s because we can’t overemphasize it: growing up with access to so much knowledge and so many forms of communication has created some very real generational differences – and they go far beyond knowing how to install a software update.

Avast recently discovered an interesting generational difference via our The era of the crook survey, which sought to find out how common online scams are today. One statistic that jumped out was that, despite common beliefs about older people online, Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 were much more likely to share personal information with someone they only knew by line than people over 55.

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for the question “Which of the following would you be willing to share with someone you’ve only met online?” (e.g. potential love interest, new client or boss, new friend, etc.)”:

18 to 24

25 to 34

55 or more

Date of Birth

24%

22%

9%

Phone number

40%

30%

21%

social media handle

31%

30%

ten%

Workplace

16%

ten%

5%

Names of relatives

13%

9%

2%

As you can see, young people are much more free with their personal information online than those over 55. This can be due to several different reasons.

One: technology. those under 40 had at least AOL in their childhood, while those under 25 have never lived in a world without personal cell phones. 18-year-olds were two years old when the first iPhone came out, so you could say they’ve never known a world without smartphones.

Let’s compare that with someone who was born in 1950. They would have seen the meteoric rise of television, with less than a million American households in 1949 and 44 million in 1969. The telephone on which they learned to make calls probably had a rotary dial and a spring cord, if they even had a telephone at home . And calling someone outside his hometown would have been prohibitively expensive.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that 18 to 34 year olds simply feel more comfortable online. They’re more used to sharing personal information with strangers because they’ve been doing it since they were little. People over 55, on the other hand, came of age in a time when you weren’t communicating much outside of your immediate circle, let alone sharing personal information.

However, interestingly, roughly the same percentage of people across all age groups surveyed said they “restrict the sharing of personal information online to mitigate the risk of scams.” The vast majority of respondents (between 85 and 95%) say they “totally agree” or “somewhat agree” with the statement.

And yet, the responses to who shares what information online that we’ve outlined above illustrate a disconnect between the actual actions people take and what they think they’re doing. Because the reality is that the personal information young people are more likely to share online puts them at a higher risk of being scammed.

“The reality is that online scammers have no scruples and are always looking to exploit people’s emotions, circumstances or larger events to make money,” says Jaya Baloo, Chief Security Officer of the information at Avast. “Fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so we urge people to think twice before sharing personal information online or clicking on links that may be clever impersonations of fraudsters.”

So, digital natives, while you might have to show your mom how to use FaceTime every time she wants to use it, here’s an online lesson you can learn from your elders: Share less online. It may be the very thing that keeps you from getting scammed.

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