When adolescents share their passwords with their friends, they are putting themselves at an increased risk for online abuse victimization. Surprisingly, very little empirical research has tried to understand the context and underlying motivations of adolescent password sharing. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study aims to address this gap in the literature by examining the prevalence and context of two related behaviors: 1) password sharing and 2) accessing a best friend's phone without permission. We draw on both quantitative data and responses to open-ended questions that were collected among 2582 adolescents (ngirls = 1432, 56.6%) with a mean age of 13.45 years old (SD = 0.90) in the Dutch-speaking area of Belgium. Around half of the respondents in our sample had shared a password of a social media account or the PIN code of their mobile phone with their best friend, and 9.6% had accessed their best friend's phone without their consent. When investigating the underlying motivations for password sharing, our study revealed that passwords were mainly shared as a token of trust and friendship. Passwords were often exchanged reciprocally. Girls were significantly more likely to share their passwords or to access their best friend's phone without permission than boys. The respondents justified breaking into a best friend's phone by passing it off as a ‘joke’, or they claimed that they wanted to surprise their best friend. We discuss implications for industry, practice, and we present a research agenda for future work.
- Early adolescents
- Password sharing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Computer Networks and Communications
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering