Pamela Wisniewski

Hey, Google and Facebook!

Invited Talks at Google and Facebook

Taking a break from sunny, humid Florida to spend a few days in sunny California. Today, I am going to give a research talk at Google on my work related to Adolescent Online Safety. Here’s the abstract:

User-Centered Design for Adolescent Online Safety: But Who is The “User?”

Dr. Pamela Wisniewski, Assistant Professor at The University of Central Florida

Most online safety tools (i.e., “parental controls”) are designed to meet the needs of parents and young children, ignoring the complex developmental needs of adolescents (ages 13-17) as they transition into adulthood. This makes sense; it is easier to design sociotechnical solutions that monitor and restrict undesirable behavior than it is to build systems that help adolescents youth how to self-regulate their own actions. Similarly, it is also more clear cut to create laws, such as the Childrens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), that protect younger children (ages 13 and under), that together, either result in teens being treated like children or leaving teens to virtually fend for themselves. In my talk, I discuss the status quo of technical solutions for adolescent online safety and propose a paradigm shift towards more teen-centric approaches for keeping adolescents safe online, which includes empowering teens to self-regulate their online behaviors to more effectively manage the risks (e.g., information breaches, cyberbullying, sexual solicitations, and exposure to explicit content) they may encounter online.


Tomorrow, I am going to be at Facebook Headquarters and joined by other researchers from the networked privacy community. Here is the abstract for our panel:

Understanding Individual Differences in Networked Privacy

Panelists: Xinru Page, Pamela Wisniewski, Bart Knijnenburg, and Norah Abokhodair

Networked privacy is a complex concept; it is connected with notions of identity, seclusion and autonomy. Age, gender, education, and culture are only some of the important factors that shape individuals’ online privacy concerns. In addition, privacy goes well beyond what people share via social media and the privacy settings on their profile. It involves nuanced on- and offline management of interpersonal boundaries to prevent unintended sharing, undesired engagement and disruptions. It is also concerned with recovering, if possible, once one’s privacy has been violated. These issues are especially important when we consider diverse populations, including different cultural backgrounds and users and non-users of various age ranges. However, it is difficult to find the optimal balance between offering a standard solution and taking individual differences into account. In this interactive panel discussion, expert networked privacy researchers from academia will discuss how privacy is conceptualized, enacted, and applied in practice and research. They will explain the unique privacy needs and expectations of a wide range of different users. In addition, they will engage with the audience to discuss how we can work together to integrate support for these individual differences into the design of Facebook.

Looking forward to connecting with some talented and like-minded folks!

Invitation to the Matt Townsend Show

Matt Townsend BYU Radio

In 2015, I was invited to speak with Matt Townsend regarding my research on building teen resilience to online risks. Today, we spoke about my new research on family communication regarding online risks and mobile apps for promoting adolescent online safety.

In our interview, Matt reminded me that I needed to update my website. 😉 So, here I am providing a link to at least some of the resources we discussed during the interview for those who might visit. Also, here is a link to the podcast from  BYU Radio.

Some useful Resources:

  • The Family Online Safety Institute has a lot of great resources on promoting a safer internet for all.
  • Common Sense Media is another great resource.
  • Rakkoon is an app developed by one of my collaborators for helping teens use social media more responsibly.
  • Xooloo Digital Coach has created another app to help teens more effectively manage their digital habits.
  • Here is the app I mentioned that was created by a 15-year-old girl: ReThink before the damage is done.

I am always looking to forge new research collaborations with other academic researchers, as well as industry partners, who are equally dedicated to helping teens engage safely with others online. If you are interested in collaborations, you can contact me at

Thanks, Matt, for having me on your show again.


Two CSCW Papers Accepted

See You at CSCW 2017!

Parents Just Don’t Understand: Why Teens Don’t Talk to Parents about Their Online Risk Experiences

Wisniewski, P., Xu, H., Rosson, M.B., and Carroll, J.M.

Abstract: Past research has shown that parents tend to underestimate the frequency with which their teens experience online risks. However, little is known about whether and how teens communicate with their parents when online risks do occur. In a two-month, web-based diary study of 68 teen-parent pairs, participants provided separate accounts of the teens’ weekly online risk experiences. We found that most teens had little or no communication with their parents regarding their online risk experiences, and parents and teens shared very different perceptions and reactions when risks were reported, helping explain why communication was so poor. We discuss the implications of our results and make recommendations for how researchers and designers may work to improve the state of family communication regarding adolescent online risks in the future.

Wisniewski, P., Xu, H., Rosson, M.B., and Carroll, J.M. (2017) “Parents Just Don’t Understand: Why Teens Don’t Talk to Parents about Their Online Risk Experiences” In the Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2017), Portland, OR. (34.5% acceptance rate)
[Download pdf]

Parental Control vs. Teen Self-Regulation: Is there a middle ground for mobile online safety?

Wisniewski, P., Ghosh, A.K., Xu, H., Rosson, M.B., and Carroll, J.M.

Abstract: We conducted a structured, qualitative feature analysis of 75 Android mobile apps designed for the purpose of promoting adolescent online safety. Through this analysis we identified 42 unique features that mapped to a theoretically derived conceptual framework of teen online safety strategies balanced between parental control strategies (through monitoring, restriction, and active mediation) and teen self-regulation strategies (through self-monitoring, impulse control, and risk-coping). We found that the apps strongly favored features that promote parental control through monitoring and restricting teens’ online behaviors over teen self-regulation or more communicative and collaborative practices between parents and teens. We use the lens of value sensitive design to discuss the implications of our results and identify opportunities for designing mobile apps for online safety that embed more positive family values.

Wisniewski, P., Ghosh, A.K.*, Xu, H., Rosson, M.B., and Carroll, J.M. (2017) “Parental Control vs. Teen Self-Regulation: Is there a middle ground for mobile online safety?” In the Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2017), Portland, OR. (34.5% acceptance rate)
[Download pdf]

Another CHI Best!

CHI Best Paper Award

I just received the great news that my CHI 2016 paper received a Best Paper Award. “This is a prestigious, highly selective award. Of the ~2325 paper submissions, only 23 earned a Best Paper status (less than 1%).” I am highly honored for the second year in a row to receive a CHI Best Paper. A big thanks to my co-authors who were the Co-PIs of the NSF grant that made this research possible.

Dear Diary: Teens Reflect on Their Weekly Online Risk Experiences

Wisniewski, P., Xu, H., Rosson, M.B., Perkins, D.F., and Carroll, J.M.

Abstract: In our study, 68 teens spend two months reflecting on their weekly online experiences and report 207 separate risk events involving information breaches, online harassment, sexual solicitations, and exposure to explicit content. We conduct a structured, qualitative analysis to characterize the salient dimensions of their risk experiences, such as severity, level of agency, coping strategies, and whether the teens felt like the situation had been resolved. Overall, we found that teens can potentially benefit from lower risk online situations, which allow them to develop crucial interpersonal skills, such as boundary setting, conflict resolution, and empathy. We can also use the dimensions of risk described in this paper to identify potentially harmful risk trajectories before they become high-risk situations. Our end goal is to find a way to empower and protect teens so that they can benefit from online engagement.

CAIS Manuscript Acceptance

Interpersonal Privacy Preferences of Social Networking Site Users

Our paper entitled, “Framing and Measuring Multi-Dimensional Interpersonal Privacy Preferences of Social Networking Site Users” was recently accepted for publication in the journal of the Communications of the Association for Information Systems (CAIS). I’m excited to get to share some more of my dissertation with with the research community at-large.

Authors: Wisniewski, P., Islam, N., Lipford, H.R., and Wilson, D.C.


In this paper, we focus on interpersonal boundary regulation as a means to balance the tradeoffs between engaging with others and protecting one’s privacy on social networking sites (SNSs). We examine boundary regulation from the combined perspectives of SNS design and end user behavior; we conduct a feature-oriented domain analysis of five popular SNS interfaces and 21 semi-structured SNS user interviews. We use this information to construct a taxonomy of 10 types of interpersonal boundaries SNS users regulate to manage their privacy preferences. We then develop and validate scales to operationalize these 10 boundary types to measure the multi-dimensional nature of SNS users’ privacy preferences by using a sample of 581 Facebook users. Our taxonomy provides a theoretical foundation for conceptualizing SNS user privacy, and our scales provide a more robust way to measure SNS users’ multi-faceted privacy preferences.


New Position at UCF

Hey, Florida, I’m Back!

UcflSealGold_220In a long overdue announcement, I am excited to announce that I have accepted a tenure track position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida in their College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. UCF is the second largest university in the United States and located in sunny Orlando, Florida.  US News & World Report ranks our department as #90 and #3 on on the fastest up-and-coming universities.  It has grown exponentially in size and opportunity since it was founded in 1963. Go Knights!

I am teaching an undergraduate course in Human-Computer Interaction to 150 students this fall and supporting the newly ABET Accredited bachelor’s program in Information Technology. I have a number of on-going student research projects and faculty research collaborations. What I have found out about UCF so far is that it offers a lot of opportunities to new faculty, I just have to find the time to follow up on them all!

It is nice moving back to Sunny Florida after a couple of freezing winters in State College, PA! I loved the experience I had at Penn State, but the weather was a bear. Though the last time I lived in Florida was 2004 when four hurricanes hit Tampa Bay in the course of a month – and flooded my house. Luckily, Orlando is farther inland, so hopefully I don’t have to worry about that again.  Mike, Eva, and I are excited to be putting down some roots and look forward to this new adventure.

Recent Media Spotlights

Our Research Rocks!

wisniewski_jia_carroll_4Our research on adolescent online safety has been receiving a lot of attention in news media lately, as it should! This post doc has been a great learning experience, and I have been extremely blessed to work with such a talented team of researchers.

Here are just a few news stories that have highlighted the exciting work we have been doing here at Penn State:

BYU Radio’s The Matt Townsend Show – “Religion and Presidents, Pregnancy Brain, Teens Online,” April 22, 2015.

Penn State Research Communications, Matt Swayne – “Resilience, not abstinence, may help teens battle online risk,” April 2015.

Penn State Research Communications, Stephanie Koons – “Researchers seek ideal parenting style for teen online safety,” March 2015.

Penn State Research Communications, Matt Swayne – “Teens’ approach to social media risks is different from adults,” March 2015.

The Chicago Tribune, “Wisconsin stabbing: Violence influenced by fiction nothing new,” June 2014.

Penn State Research Communications, Matt Swayne – “Parents should try to find middle ground to keep teens safe online,” March 2014.


CHI 2015 Best Paper Award

Best of CHI

Our CHI 2015 paper was considered to be in the top 1% of all CHI submissions! Excited and thankful that our work is being recognized. Check out my earlier post to read the paper abstract and see the model results from our study.

We are pleased to inform you that your paper, Resilience Mitigates the Negative Effects of Adolescent Internet Addiction and Online Risk Exposure, has been selected to receive a SIGCHI Best of CHI Best Paper Award. The SIGCHI Best of CHI Awards honor exceptional submissions to SIGCHI sponsored conferences. Receiving a Best Paper Award is an outstanding accomplishment. It indicates that the CHI Associate Chairs and Best Papers committee identified your paper as being among the top 1% of all submission to CHI 2015.

Tenure-Track Job Search

No Rest for the Weary

This has been an especially busy semester for me — adjusting to life with a new baby, finishing up my post doctoral research, and interviewing for tenure-track faculty positions.  So far, I have been invited to seven on-site interviews and have had many other Skype/phone interviews.  I am thankful that my portfolio and accomplishments have generated so much interest at a wide variety of different, quality universities. And, I am excited to figure out in the next couple of months which of these universities will be where I start my long-term academic career.

While most of the departments request that I give a research job talk, a few have also requested that I give a teaching demonstration. Recently, I Googled myself, and I found a student blog post reviewing my teaching demo of introductory JavaScript. I won’t post a link because it links to the university’s website, and I don’t want to be too invasive to the student’s privacy, but here is an excerpt:

“I will go so far as to say this seminar was the best one I have attended (and I’ve attended nearly all of them). Her presentation and style was fantastic; she was enthusiastic, funny, and presented with great clarity.” -Ryan ’15


He even posted some pictures of my talk. Overall, it was great to get some positive feedback, as the process of interviewing can get pretty grueling at times.

In the midst of all of this, I would like to take a moment to thank my bosses at Penn State — Heng Xu, Jack Carroll, and Mary Beth Rosson.  Heng initally hired me for this position, and without her giving me this opportunity, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  Jack and Mary Beth have also been great supervisors and mentors, supporting me through advisement, friendship, and job references. And, I also don’t want to forget Heather Lipford and David Wilson, my dissertation advisors, who are still big advocates for me in my job search. My cup is brimming over with gratitude as I prepare myself for the new adventures ahead.

CSCW 2015 Best Paper Honorable Mention

Best of CSCW

I just received notification yesterday that our paper entitled, “’Preventative’ vs. ‘Reactive:’ How Parental Mediation Influences Teens’ Social Media Privacy Behaviors,” received a best paper honorable mention at CSCW 2015. It is one of the three papers I co-authored and will be presenting in Vancouver in March. We performed a secondary analysis of a Pew Research data set to better understand how different parental mediation strategies (Active Mediation versus Direct Intervention) influenced teens’ online risk-taking and risk-coping behaviors on Facebook.  I would like to congratulate my co-authors Haiyan Jia, Heng Xu, Mary Beth Rosson, and Jack Carroll on our job well done!