Think Before You Share: New resource from Facebook and MediaSmarts

Today, Facebook and MediaSmarts would like to announce a new guide for teens, Think Before You Share, that provides tips about sharing and making decisions online.

For young people, more than anyone else, digital media are all about sharing: whether it’s their thoughts, photos or their latest favourite video, almost all of the devices and platforms that youth use are designed to make it easy for them to share things with their friends. In MediaSmarts’ research with young people we have looked carefully at the habits and attitudes youth have towards sharing things online, as well as their worries, bad experiences and strategies for avoiding problems and fixing things when they go wrong. Our Young Canadians in a Wired World study, along with the best research available from around the world on how young people share and make decisions online, provided the basis for Think Before You Share, a new tip sheet for teens available on the Facebook Family Safety Center and on the MediaSmarts website.

“It was a picture of a friend […] she did not look the best and later was upset that I had posted it because she said it made her look fat. I thought it was a funny picture and would get some laughs. I hurt my friend’s feelings.”[1]

One of the most interesting findings in recent research is that, with the exception of online gaming, young people almost exclusively socialize online with people that they also know offline. That doesn’t mean that they’re not worried about their privacy: in fact, the youth we spoke to were very concerned about the things they posted online being seen by unintended audiences and acutely aware of the possibility that something meant for one friend might cause trouble if seen by another. They were also very conscious of the need to manage how they were portrayed in social media by other people, such as in revealing or embarrassing photos.

“Sometimes it's really embarrassing, if you're making, like, the stupidest face in a picture and your friend posts it on Facebook, that's gonna start some drama if they won't take it down or people have already seen it.” Maddy, 15-17, Calgary.[2]

The Think Before You Share tip sheet gives youth the tools they need to share safely, wisely and ethically. Research shows that “The most common way in which teens try to delineate boundaries is through the assertion of social norms[3]”; in other words, young people prefer to deal with online issues socially, rather than relying on technological tools. That’s why the tip sheet recommends dealing with unwanted sharing by talking to the person responsible offline (a strategy which was recommended by several of the students in our focus groups, and has also been identified as one of the most effective by the Pew study Reputation Management and Social Media[4]). It also gives young people tools and tips for dealing with “hot” emotional states like anger or excitement that can lead to making bad choices about sharing things online, and reminds them to turn to friends, family and other trusted people in their lives for support if things go wrong.

Young people want to make good decisions about sharing online. With the Think Before You Share tip sheet (Hyperlink), they have the tools they need to do just that.

The Think Before You Share tip sheet can be downloaded at the Family Safety Center and MediaSmarts website. In addition, Facebook will be running ads on Facebook to promote the guide to teens and their parents. 

Please share this post and download the tip sheet today.

[1] "I regretted the minute I pressed share": a qualitative study of regrets on Facebook, Y. Wang, G. Norcie, S. Komanduri, A. Acquisti, P. G. Leon and L. F. Cranor, in Proceedings of the Seventh Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2011), New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2011, pp. 10:1-10:16.

[2] MediaSmarts. Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Youth and Parent Focus Groups. 2012.

[3] boyd, danah, and Marwick, Alice E. Social Privacy in Networked Publics: Teens’ Attitudes, Practices, and Strategies. (September 22, 2011). A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society, September 2011. Available at SSRN:

[4] Mary Madden and Aaron Smith. Reputation Management and Social Media. Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2010