Privacy and teenagers' online behavior

June 2008 - January 2015
around 5,000 € in kind
Funding organization: 


Person(s) in charge: 

Alessandro Mantelero (Nexa project manager)

Executive summary: 

This project analyses the findings of empirical studies focused on privacy and teenage behavior related with fundamental pillars of data protection (e.g., notice-and-consent profiling, etc.). It investigates how the provisions of the new EU Proposal for a General Data Protection address the different issues related to teenage online behavior.


Various studies showed that a more intense activity of data sharing by teens is linked with the acknowledgement of the value of personal information and of the consequences of sharing it. This consciousness seems to be stronger among digital natives, since the more the data are exploited, the more users seem to acquire a consciousness of informational self-determination.
In this vein, various empirical studies have been conducted in Europe and in other countries to analyse attitude and online behavior of youngsters. Many of these works are focused on sociological or ethnological aspects, nevertheless the outputs of these studies offer useful information in order to investigate the legal implications of the findings, in order to evaluate the existing and future legal framework.


Last Update: 2014-05-30; Next Expected Update: 2015-03-31

1. A review of the existing literature and of empirical researches on teenage behavior online, focused on the findings which are relevant from a legal perspective concerning data protection.
2. A pilot survey on the aspects of teenage online behavior more strictly related to existing and future EU data protection regulation. The survey is oriented to collect empirical evidences and to make a more aware assessment of the effective impact of the solutions provided by the European legislator in the new proposal.
3. An analysis of the EU Proposal based on the empirical evidences of the above-mentioned studies and the potential proposal changes to be adopted in shaping the future legal framework.


Last Update: 2014-05-30; Next Expected Update: 2015-03-31

The survey has been conducted in Northern Italy (Piedmont Region) and involved two different cohorts of teenagers: the first composed by 435 students in the second grade of lower secondary school (respondent rate 96,1%); the second encompassing 1051 students (91,5%), divided in to two strata, i.e. students in the second grade of upper secondary school (606 students, 57,66% of the sample) and students on fifth grade of upper secondary school (445 students, 42,34% of the sample).
The first results confirm that the traditional model of notice-and-consent is arguably to be re-thinked, and that the respondents are aware of privacy risks. Nevertheless, they are discouraged by long notices, legalese wording and, in many cases, by the absence of alternative service providers. Users focus their attention on privacy settings, which are easier to understand, and give the chance to partially manage data processing in a context in which an effective freedom of choice often does not exist. In many cases, respondents grant importance to the mere presence of privacy policies, and to the reputation of service providers. Finally, findings show an increasing attention among teenagers about the consequences of their online behavior.
Such results were presented at the Media & Learning 2013 conference (Flemish Ministry of Education, 12-13 December 2013, Brussels, Belgium). A first review of the above-mentioned literature will appear in English in the Italian law review “Contratto e Impresa/Europa”.
The publication of the findings of the project and the related academic article on an international law review are expected in autumn 2015.

17-19 November 2014
International Conference 25 Years CRC
Leiden Law School, Leiden University

conference presentation: Mantelero, Protecting children’s privacy in the online context. A legal perspective