Societal Computing Thesis Proposal

  • ABIGAL MARSH
  • Ph.D. Student
  • Ph.D. Program in Societal Computing
  • IInstitute for Software Research, Carnegie Mellon University
Thesis Proposals

Online Parenting and Digital Privacy

Teenagers are using the internet for a variety of social and identity-based activities,but in doing so, they are exposed to risky situations. The work of ensuring teens’ online safety falls to largely parents, many of whom are unprepared to understand the realities and norms of teens’ online activity. In this thesis, we will investigate how parents and teens perceive online risks, the efficacy of current tools designed to keep teens safe online, and finally, whether we can improve currently available online safety tools. We have conducted interviews with parents and teens to understand how they perceive digital privacy within their families, and in what situations teens’ privacy should be preserved or denied. We propose work to investigate a specific case of online safety, peer-based online conflict among teenagers, also called cyberbullying.

In studying cyberbullying, we will investigate whether and how parents and teens define online conflicts differently, with an eye towards miscommunications that could make parenting decisions more difficult. We explore the pressures parents face to employ privacy-invasive and restrictive parenting practices, and their confusion about teens’ digital communities that make some parents unsure about communication and education-based interventions. We further present how different groups perceive these various categories of parenting strategies. We further propose to study how current digital online safety tools perform in risky online situations encountered by teens.

To understand the current tool landscape, we will study how two existing tools—a parental control software and a family online behavior contract—perform in families using a longitudinal mixed-methods study. For this study, we will investigate whether families use these tools to identify or handle risky situations, and whether they are satisfied or feel safer with these tools in place. Building on this knowledge, we will build an improved tool or modify an existing tool for mitigating risks encountered by teens online and test it against existing tools within families.

Thesis Committee:

Lorrie Faith Cranor (Advisor)
Julie S. Downs (Dietrich College)
James D. Herbsleb
Amy Bru ckman (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Copy of Proposal Document

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