Month: July 2010

Is online trust and trust in social institutions associated with online disclosure of identifiable personal information online?

Is online trust and trust in social institutions associated with online disclosure of identifiable personal information  online?

By Gustavo S. Mesch

In recent years there is an increase in public concern regarding privacy and privacy related issues . The Internet has changed the way in which user’s information is gathered, stored and exchanged. The growth in Internet deployment and use, and the creation of cost-effective, large-volume information-storage devices have made storing, merging, analyzing and using digital  information a convenient option for governmental and commercial organizations alike . Furthermore, some Internet users are disclosing and making available personal and identifiable information making it available for search, analysis, distribution and use. The distribution and potential abuse of this information can create serious repercussions for many Internet users, which may not be immediately noticeable and whose source may be hard to locate.

Disclosing identifiable information is linked to the concept of trust. Trust refers to a “general expectancy held by an individual that the word, promise, oral or written statement of another individual or group can be relied upon . In other words is a belief that in general individuals and groups can be trusted . Trust ameliorates the perceived risks of disclosing identifiable information ).

Online trust (e.g. trust in web sites, online news, social networking sites providers) has been extensively studied . From this studies we learned that the formation of online trust is a difficult process but when it is created it serves to mitigate the perceptions of risk, uncertainty and vulnerability that are associated with the disclosure of personal and identifiable information. Yet, one important limitation of these studies is that have not compared online and face to face(ftf) trust. In other words, we do not know if trust in individuals and social institutions are associated with online trust and if there is a differential effect of trust in individuals, social institutions and online trust on the disclosure of identifiable information. The purpose of this study was to fill this gap in the literature and to investigate factors associated with the disclosure of identifiable information. In doing this, the association of various forms of trust and perception of risks on the disclosure of identifiable information was investigated.

Main findings:

* Participants: A sample of Internet users (n=1692)

* Sample description

On average the respondents were 51.49 years old  and 58 percent were women and 42 percent men. As to education, 37.4 percent had a partial or completed high school education, 27 percent had completed a technical degree, 24 percent had completed college and 12 percent graduate school.

It was found that 27.7 percent had posted comments and information online using their real names, 31.4 percent had posted online using a screename that others can identify and 11.3 percent had posted comments online anonymously.

Regarding trust, 39 percent of the sample expressed a positive response on the item that measured generalized trust. The average trust in social institutions was higher (M=4.66, SD=1.60) than trust online (M=3.47, SD=1.57) that were both measured in a scale of 1 to 10.

*Attitudes to online privacy, it was found that 24.6 percent of the sample express concern over the amount of information that is available on them online and 53 percent agree with the statement that they are concerned that people think is normal to search for information about others online.

* Is trust offline associated with trust online?

The correlation of general trust and online trust is positive and statistically significant (r=.18 p<.01) and there is a medium size and statistically significant correlation between online trust and trust in social institutions (r=.42, p<.01). At the same time, the measure of general trust in people was associated with trust in institutions (r=.22 p<.01).

* Which trust is associated with disclosure of identifiable information online?

Trust in individuals is not associated with posting identifiable information online or with posting using a screename or anonymously. In addition, trust in social institutions was also found not statistically significant as a predictor of the likelihood to posting information with identifiable name, using a screname or anonymously.

Online trust has a positive effect on the likelihood of posting information online using an identifiable name.

Preliminary conclusions:

Trust online and trust offline are not completely separate entities. Online trust is affected by our trust in individuals and social institutions.

Yet, trust online has also other sources beyond offline trust that need to be identified.

Trust online, and not trust offline is a predictor of our online behavior. Similar to the results of the previous study on the effect of online and offline norms on online behavior, it appears that in the online environment there are emergent norms and trust that can only be partially accounted by offline socialization.

More will come when I finish writing the paper.

Sociological Focus Feb 2010 available online

The February 2010 issue of Sociological Focus is available online

Consider submitting a paper for review.

Sociological Focus is the official publication of the North Central Sociological
Association (NCSA). Published continuously since 1968, the quarterly journal is international in scope, covering a full range of topics of current interest to sociology and related social science disciplines. The journal is peer r and committed to publishing high quality research on substantive issues of importance to the study of society. The journal’s mission is broad in scope, encompassing empirical works (both
quantitative and qualitative in nature), as well as manuscripts presenting up to date literature review of any field of sociology.

Information for authors is available at

Editor, Gustavo S. Mesch

Sociological Focus, May 2010, Table of Contents

Edited and published at
the Department of Sociology & Anthropology,
University of Haifa, in association with
Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, Colorado
Volume 43 May 2010
Number 2 ISSN 0038-0237
Editor: Gustavo S. Mesch

The Organizational Practice of Gendered Employment:
Disparate Impact and Gender Segregation in the
Japanese Entry-Level Labor Market
Kayo Fujimoto

Explaining the Gender Gap in Professors’
Intentions to Leave
Vicki L. Dryfhout and Sarah Beth Estes

Diversity, Macrosociology, and Religious
Belonging: Using Mixed-Level Models
in Examining Spatial Variation and the
Closed Community Thesis
Jeremy R. Porter

Identity Consequences of Religious
Changing: Effects of Motivation for
Change on Identity Outcomes
Robert M. Carrothers

Communication and Information Technologies Section of ASA activities in Atlanta 2010

CITASA sessions

The Social Impacts of Technology and Information‎

Scheduled Time: Sun, Aug 15 – 8:30am – 10:10am Building: Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Session Organizer: Shelia R. Cotten (University of Alabama – Birmingham) ‎

The Best of Two Worlds? Internet Use, Online Communication, and ‎Social Networks  ‎*Wenhong Chen (University of Texas at Austin)‎

The Digital Campaign: How Barack Obama Achieved the Dream

Cynthia Love (Siena College), *Sudarat Musikawong (Siena College)

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

‎*Vicki Winstead (University of Alabama at Birmingham), Elizabeth Allyne

Yost ‎‎(University of Alabama at Birmingham), Shelia R. Cotten (University

of Alabama – ‎Birmingham), William A. Anderson (University of Alabama at

Birmingham), Amanda ‎M. Warr (University of Alabama at Birmingham), Ronald William Berkowsky ‎‎(University of Alabama at Birmingham)‎

Well-Being and Internet Use ‎*Paul A. Rey (University of Maryland),

*Zeynep Tufekci (University of Maryland, ‎Baltimore County)‎

Social Media and Social Capital

Scheduled Time: Sun, Aug 15 – 10:30am – 12:10pm Building: Atlanta Marriott ‎Marquis

Session Organizer: Gustavo S. Mesch (University of Haifa) ‎

Dear AskMe, Can Building Networks and Reading Random Articles Help ‎Me

Solve Other People’s Problems?‎  ‎*Alexandra Marin (University of Toronto)‎

Internet Use and Social Ties of Americans: An Analysis of General Social Survey Data ‎*Zeynep Tufekci (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)‎

Social Capital and Communication Multiplexity in Social Relationship

‎Maintenance: An Alternative Theoretical Approach‎

‎*Yu-Li Hsieh (Northwestern University), Eszter Hargittai (Northwestern University)‎

Talking over the crowd: A Discourse Analysis on comments from Special

‎topic blogs ‎*Ibrahim Halil Yucel (Penn State University)‎

Section Roundtables Organizer Tim Hale, U of Alabama

Sun, Aug 15 – 2:30pm – 3:30pm Building: Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Roundtable 1:

Tie Interdependencies in Email Communication Networks

‎*Ofer Engel (London School of Economics and Political Science)‎

The effect of Social Networking Sites, e-mail, I.M. and Weblogs on Self Esteem

‎‎*Gustavo S. Mesch (University of Haifa)‎

Are Gender and Race Important Factors Shaping the Use and ‎Consequences of  Email to Family?  ‎‎*Noelle A. Chesley (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

, Briana Fox (SER-Jobs for ‎Progress)‎

Roundtable 2:

Technological Influences on Social Ties across the Lifespan

*Brandi Marie McCullough (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

*Shelia R. ‎Cotten (University of Alabama – Birmingham)

,*Rebecca G. Adams (University of ‎North Carolina at Greensboro)‎

Using Affordable Technology To Bridge The Digital Divide: Results from

‎Birmingham’s XO Laptop Project

‎*Shelia R. Cotten (University of Alabama – Birmingham), *Timothy M. Hale

‎‎(University of Alabama at Birmingham), Michael Howell-Moroney (University of ‎Alabama at Birmingham), LaToya J. ONeal (University of Alabama-Birmingham)‎

Digital adaptability: New construct and measure for digital inequality research ‎  ‎*Cassidy Puckett (Northwestern University)

‎Roundtable 3

Socioeconomic inequality, education and social capital: What factors

‎shape social network growth among college students?‎

‎*Howard T. Welser (Ohio University), Brandon Brooks (Ohio University)

Bernard ‎Hogan (University of Toronto), Scott Titsworth (Ohio University)

‎Affordances for Networked Activism: Evaluating the capacities of ‎social

Movement sites to connect and motivate activists

‎*Nina Cesare (Ohio University), *Howard T. Welser (Ohio University)‎

Chinese Netizens and China’s Democratization: The Political ‎Consequences

of the Rise of the Chinese Netizens  ‎*Ya-Wen Lei (University of Michigan)‎

Roundtable 4

Cultural Fragmentation, Popular Culture, and Changing Perceptions of

‎Deviance Among Generation Y.‎ ‎*J. M. Larshus (SUNY-Albany), William J. Kinney (University of St. Thomas)‎

More than a Panic: Correlates of the Importance of Drugs and ‎Unemployment ‎*Jarrett Alan Thibodeaux (Vanderbilt University)‎

Terri’s Fate: Regional and Political Differences in the Discussion of the End of Life Outcomes ‎*Katy Schindler (Florida State University), *JoEllen Pederson (Florida State ‎University)‎

Roundtable 5

Social Justice and the Virtualization of Health and Illness in the Age of

‎Biological Citizenship.‎ ‎*Alexander Stingl (Pompeii-Project EU)‎

The Golden Era: Authenticity, Invented Tradition and Hip-Hop History

‎*Michael Barnes (California State University, Long Beach)‎

Transformative Social Processes of Cyberspace:

Applying the Theories ‎of Durkheim and Weber to the Internet

‎*David Drissel (Iowa Central Community College)‎

Roundtable 6

Measuring Electronic Government Procurement Success and Testing ‎for the

Moderating Effect of Computer Self-efficacy ‎*Chyi-Lu Jang (National Sun Yat-Sen University)‎

Strategic Choice Models in a Globalized Marketplace:

Perspectives ‎through the RBV and TCE Theoretical Lenses

‎*Zengie Mangaliso (Westfield State College), Mzamo P. Mangaliso (Eugene

M. ‎Isenberg School of Management, UMass/Amherst)‎

Roundtable 7

A Comparison of Promoter and Listener Preferences for Popular Music Artists

‎*Patricia L. Donze (University of California-Los Angeles)‎

Institutional Structures of Online Knowledge Production: Wikipedia, ‎Knol and Citizendium

‎*Edo Navot (University of Wisconsin – Madison)‎

Science’s Taste for Open Access

‎*James A. Evans (University of Chicago)‎

Roundtable 8

Table Presider: John P. Robinson (University of Maryland) ‎

Status Dynamics in Online Gift Exchange:

How Competition and the ‎Spread of Status Value Shape Reciprocity

‎*Patrick Park (Cornell University)‎

The Outreach of Barack Obama to the African American Community ‎Using

Online Social Networking

‎*Cynthia Love (Siena College), Sudarat Musikawong (Siena College)‎

IT, TV AND Time Displacement: A 45-Year Comparison

‎*John P. Robinson (University of Maryland)

3:30 pm, Business meeting and Awards Ceremony, Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Cybebullying: a case for a social network approach

This paragraph is from our recent book,                                                                           Mesch, Gustavo and Ilan Talmud. (2010) Wired Youth The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age. Pp. 119-136. Routledge.

The social network perspective focuses on exchanges (or the lack of) between
pairs of actors. A social network relation denotes the type of exchange or interaction between any pair of actors in a system of actors. The network approach differs from other approaches mainly in its focus on exchanges and interactions between actors, not on the individual characteristics of the actors engaged in the exchange of resources. Social network analysis is used to describe the network and to explain how involvement in a particular network helps to explain its members’ attitudes and behavior.                                 In our understanding of the role of youth social networks it is positive
outcomes that are almost always emphasized.  At the same time we should recognize that social ties can carry negative outcomes, commonly thought to be the result of lack of social ties alone. Not belonging to a large network, not experiencing closeness to existing ties, or belonging to a low density network are all assumed conducive to deterioration in mental health. Note however that negative outcomes may result from being involved in negative social ties—negative in the sense of hostile, aggressive, and humiliating interactions
Joining social media, is joining or creating a network, and the structure, composition and activities, together with its integration with the school based social network have implications for cyberbullying and bullying.
Networks need to be studied to understand their role in bullying behavior and victimization.
More you can read in our book at your library.

Parental Mediation, Online Activities and Cyberbullying Gustavo Mesch

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of exposure to online risks and parental mediation on the likelihood of cyberbullying in a large and representative sample of the youth population of the U.S.

Conceptualization of Cyberbullying

This study relies on the routine-activities theory of victimization (Felson and Cohen, 1979). The basic assumption underlying the lifestyle exposure theory is that differences in the likelihood of victimization are attributed to differences in personal lifestyles of the victims. Variations in lifestyles are important because they are related to exposure to dangerous spaces where there are high risks of victimization. In victimization studies, space is a critical element. Cohen and Felson (1979), contend that exposure to personal victimization is more likely when there is a  convergence in space of motivated offenders, suitable targets, and absence of effective guardianship.

In order to apply this perspective to Internet studies, the internet should be considered as a new space of activity of youth. The innovative aspect of the Internet is to provide opportunities for activities that induce social interaction resulting in providing a space for meeting new individuals, and in that sense the social use represents more than a communication channel, in many cases a space of social activity. Feld (1981) uses the concept of foci of activity, defining them as “social, psychological, legal or physical objects around which joint activities are organized.”  From this perspective, foci of activity place individuals in proximity (for example, they provide opportunities for frequent meetings), which causes individuals to reveal themselves to each other.The Internet bring individuals to perform many regular activities and social interaction develops.

As youth use the Internet for their daily routine activities it can be argued that online activities differ in the extent that they expose youth to risks of being bullied. Consistent with this argument there is some evidence that Internet frequent use and high level of Internet skills increase the risk of being online bullied . It can be expected, that youth that participate in Internet activities in which there is a high likelihood of providing contact and personal information are at a higher risk that youth that use the Internet mainly to search for information provided in web pages. Thus in this study is expected that having a profile in a social networking site and participating in a clip sharing site increase the risk of being bullied online.

Online bullying requires some knowledge about the victim. When conducting online activities, individuals differ in the extent that they are willing to share personal information. Some are less willing to provide contact and personal information than others. Thus, it is expected that individuals that express more willingness to provide personal information are at a higher risk of being bullied than the ones that are express more reservations in sharing this information.

Parental mediation

An additional concept in routine activity theories is guardianship that refers to the use of protective activities to decrease the risk of victimization and refers to actions or people whose presence would discourage a crime from taking place. Guardianship may have a ‘human element’, that is usually a person that by their mere presence would deter potential offenders from perpetrating an act.  A capable guardian could also be an electronic device such as a closed capture camera providing that someone is monitoring it at the other end of the camera.

This concept has been used slightly different in the media literature. Parental mediation is a concept that has been used in media research to understand the process of television influence on audience attitudes and behaviors. According to the parental mediation model individuals are exposed to media content that may affect their attitudes and behaviors ( Rothfuss-Buerkel, & Buerkel. 2001) The model assumes that this effect is mediated by intervening variables in a way that the extent that some viewers may adopt attitudes and behaviors presented in the media is dependent on parent activities that affects how the information is received, processed and acted on by the audiences(Bybee, Robinson and Turow (1982). According to the literature there are various types of mediation, but we restrict our discussion to only two techniques: 1 Restrictive mediation involves limiting the child amount of viewing time and the programs watched. It is restrictive as does not involve the active participation of the child and is a decision of the parent. In this study it was measured by the use of electronic devices that restrict the content and web sites that the youth is exposed to. 2. Evaluative mediation represents the open discussion on issues related to Internet use, evaluation of content and subsequently the joint creation of rules regarding amount of time for Internet use, websites that are allowed and not allowed and placing the computer in a common space that allows parents to co-use the internet with their children and to be available for questions (Eastin, Bradley, Greenberg & Hofschire, 2006; Bybee, Robinson & Turow (1982).

Age and gender should be considered as well. Studies have found that the risk of being bullied is higher for older adolescents and lower for younger adolescents (Patchin and Hinduja, 2006; Mitchell et al, 2007). This age difference may be the result of developmental factors that affect the extent and type of Internet use. It is very likely that as youth growth older they engage in more activities with unknown others that result in an increased risk for being bullied online. The evidence regarding gender differences in exposure to cyberbullyng is mixed. Some studies did not find gender differences, and boys and males did not differ in the extent of self reported cyber bullying (Li, 2006; Mitchell, et. al, 2007; Pachin and Hinduja, 2006; Hinduja and Patchin, 2008). Yet there is some evidence that boys and girls use the Internet differently and are exposed to different types of parental mediation.


Participants comprised 935 teens aged 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in continental US. Participants were recruited by means of a representative sample of the youth population of the U.S. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates int. Interviews were conducted during the October-November 2006. The response rate for the survey was 46 percent.


we compared youth that have reported being a victim of cyber bullying with the ones that have not. Victims and non victims did differ in terms of their family social background.  Youth reporting having been victim of online bullying, their parents report on average a higher education than youth that report not have been a victim of bullying (M=5.02, SD= 1.53 and M=4.09, SD= 1.52,  p<.001). Online victims of bullying are on average older than non-victims. While the average age of victims of online bullying is 15.11 the average age of the non victims is 14.43 (p<.01).  Gender is associated with bullying and it was found that while only 39 percent of the males were victims, 61 percent of the girls reported being bullied at least once.

Regarding the existence of parental rules, parents of non-victims are more likely to have rules on Internet use.  The percentage of non victims of bullying reporting the existence of parental rules on web sites that are allowed to visit, time that they are allowed to be online, is higher among non-victims than among victims.

Online activities were found associated with online bullying. When inspecting the association of reporting being bullied and online activities a significant association was found between victimization and having an active profile in social network site (Chi=93.68 p</001), participation in public chat rooms (Chi=16.78 p<.001) and participation in youtube (Chi=27.70 p<.001). Online bullying was not found to be associated with playing online games. In the next step a multivariate analysis using logistic regression modeling was conducted because the dependent variable victimization is a dummy variable. Youth that frequently send text messages, IM messages and emails to their friends are at a higher risk of victimization. Furthermore, independently of online activities youth that are willing to disclose more personal information are at a higher risk of victimization than children that are less willing to disclose personal information.

Regarding the potential protective effect of parental mediation, the results are mixed. From all the restrictive mediation techniques, only monitoring web sites visited by the youth decreases the risk of victimization. The existence of rules on sites that the children are allowed to visit is statistically significant indicating that the existence of this rule decreases the odds of online cyber bullying victimization. However, other rules such as computer location, rule on time allowed to be online and rules on information share were not found to have a statistically significant effect.

The results indicate that online participation in online communication of any type is an increased risk of victimization and that parental monitoring providing guidance and restriction to web sites is effective as a protective mechanism.

An important finding is that one of the measures of evaluative mediation, namely rules on websites that adolescents are allowed to visit, was statistically significant decreasing the risk of exposure to online bullying. This result, while modest, informs us on the important role of parents engaging in conversations on the nature of websites, their content and their possible risks. Some of these sites might be related directly to the risk of victimization if parents discussing online risks are able to create awareness in youth of the potential risks of engaging in discussions in chat rooms and participating in social network sites.

An early version of the manuscript can be found at