Over a Third of Millennials in Relationships Spy on Partners' Digital Correspondence - eMarketer

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Over a Third of Millennials in Relationships Spy on Partners' Digital Correspondence

Devices—and their contents—are a new path to breakups

July 25, 2017

A sizable number of millennial couples suffer from a breach of digital privacy. But instead of an anonymous hacker, the source of such transgressions comes from closer to home—each other.

More than one-third of millennials in relationships read their partner’s texts and emails weekly without permission, according to a new study by pollster YouGov. This sneaky behavior raises the real question of whether millennials’ relationships are built on a solid foundation of trust.

US Internet Users Who Have Read a Significant Other's Text Messages, Social Media or Emails, by Age, July 2017 (% of respondents in each group)

Among millennials, the urge to take a surreptitious peek at a partner’s communications appears too great an urge to resist. While about one-quarter (23%) of all US adults surveyed admitted to reading a significant other’s texts, that figure was 37% among 18- to 34-year-olds.

Similarly, 37% of millennials looked at a partner’s social media accounts, while just 23% of total adults did the same. A higher number of millennials (31%) perused their romantic interest’s emails, compared with 22% of overall adults.

Unsurprisingly, those ages 55 and older looked at their partner’s digital correspondence at much lower levels than other age groups.

Millennials were also more predisposed to breaking up over text. YouGov found that 33% of millennials had ended a relationship via SMS, compared with 11% of those ages 35 to 54. Only 1% of those 55 or older admitted to a digital Dear John letter.

Digital privacy in millennial relationships—or the lack thereof—highlights how important online communications have become for people in the demographic.

A separate study conducted in June by home security firm Safe Home found fewer millennials (15%) said they would not use a device due to a privacy threat than any other age group.

US Internet Users Who Would Not Use a Device due to a Privacy Threat, by Age, March 2017 (% of respondents in each group)

By contrast, more than twice as many respondents ages 65 and older (38%) would decline to use a device that might threaten their privacy.

“Millennials have less expectation of digital privacy than their elders—and, perhaps because of that, seem to care less about it,” said eMarketer Senior Analyst Mark Dolliver.

He added, “It’s only a matter of time before there’s an app that leaves telltale lipstick on one’s collar, so it shouldn’t surprise us if millennials are rummaging through one another’s would-be private communications in the meantime.”

Monica Melton


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