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This research brief is a contribution by the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Center to its Student Privacy Initiative, which seeks to explore the opportunities and challenges that may arise as educational institutions adopt cloud computing technologies. In order to understand the implications of cloud services for student privacy more holistically, it might be helpful to examine how technology that is already implemented in academic contexts is used by youth and to explore how students feel about current practices. Towards this goal and informed by our recent research, the brief aims to make visible the youth perspective regarding the use of digital technology in the academic context, with a focus on privacy-relevant youth practices, limitations on access to information, and youth’s relation to educators in a high-tech environment. The brief includes insights and quotes gathered through a series of in-person focus groups as well as data from a questionnaire administered to all focus group participants. In addition, it highlights in a few instances additional research and data.

The overarching study was conducted by the Youth and Media team between February and August 2013. The team conducted 30 focus group interviews with a total of 203 participants across the greater Boston area, Chicago, Greensboro (North Carolina), Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. Each focus group lasted 90 minutes, including the 15-minute questionnaire, consisting of 20 multiple-choice questions and one open-ended response. Although the research sample was not designed to constitute representative cross-sections of particular populations, the sample includes participants from diverse ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. Participants ranged in age from 11 to 19. The mean age of participants is 14.8 (SD = 1.96).

About Youth and Media

Led by Principal Investigator Urs Gasser and Youth and Media Director Sandra Cortesi, in cooperation with Berkman board member John Palfrey and colleagues, Youth and Media encompasses an array of research, advocacy, and development initiatives around youth and digital technology. By understanding young people‘s interactions with digital media such as the Internet, cell phones, and video games, this highly collaborative project aims to gain detailed insights into youth practices and digital fluencies, harness the associated opportunities, address challenges, and ultimately shape the evolving regulatory and educational framework in a way that advances the public interest.

About the Student Privacy Initiative

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society's Student Privacy Initiative, led by Executive Director Urs Gasser, explores the opportunities and challenges that may arise as educational institutions consider adopting cloud computing technologies. In its work across three overlapping clusters – Privacy Expectations & Attitudes, School Practices & Policies, and Law & Policy – this initiative aims to engage diverse stakeholder groups from government, educational institutions, academia, and business, among others, to develop shared good practices that promote positive educational outcomes, harness technological and pedagogical innovations, and protect critical values.

To learn more about the project, please visit http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/research/studentprivacy.

Last updated January 16, 2014