Do You Know About the New Facebook Privacy Changes for Teens?
Teens ages 13-17 will now be able to post publicly if they choose instead of having just “friends” or “friends of friends” see their posts. As we all know, we’re not just talking about kids ages 13-17. There are at least 7.5 Million kids under 13 years old on Facebook according to a 2011 survey; that number is probably much higher now.
Facebook’s spin is that, “Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook.” They will also be able to let others follow them on Facebook.
As a protective measure, Facebook will pop up an alert that if a child chooses to make their post public that it can be seen by people they don’t know. This warning will be repeated before every post, while the settings remain on “public.” Also, the default settings will now be to friends only–a positive change.
Why Should You Be Concerned?
Some critics believe that Facebook stands to profit from their new policy. This change will enable advertisers to collect more personal data about minors, who have no idea that their interests and activities are a gold mine for advertising.
Critics believe that this change in privacy settings is a bad idea for our children. Children and even older teens are impulsive and rarely think about the consequences of their actions. Why? Because the area of the brain that controls good decision making, sound judgment, and control of impulsivity is not fully developed until an adult is 24.
How many of us have asked our teens when they made a boneheaded decision, “What were you thinking?” What about school age children who are on Facebook? Will they be able to consider the implications of a public post? Kids lack the ability and reasoning skills and impulse control to think through the implications of what they’re posting and are too young and vulnerable to exercise sound judgment. You, as a parent, should be the first line of defense.
What does this mean for kids?
- Kids may post before they really think about what they’re posting. Are they impulsively reacting to a situation and posting a comment for the world to see? Is it cyberbullying?
- Kids don’t think about consequences of their actions and what they post today may be life changing by damaging their reputation, affecting future employment, college admission, a scholarship application or athletic career. Colleges, scholarship providers, employers are all checking the internet now, prior to accepting a candidate. An immature indiscretion in the form of a Facebook public post could end up being life changing.
- Public posts can now be mined for highly targeted advertising to teens and also in sponsored stories, the most lucrative form of social media advertising.
What are the risks of public settings for children on Facebook?
- Anyone – not just people in their network of friends – can now send your child friend requests.
- Cybercriminals can use your child as an easy point of entry into your home PC, kind of like leaving the front door wide open. A child may inadvertently click on an ad or a link in a post that can result in their computer being infected with a virus or malware. Once this occurs personal information like credit card data, passwords can be stolen or their computer may be hacked for other nefarious reasons. Did you see the story about Miss Teen USA, whose webcam was taken over by hackers?
- Posted content can be replicated.
- Content is more searchable.
- There is the potential for increased cyberbullying – that can go viral easily.
What can parents do?
- Talk to your kids. Tell them to keep their posts to friends only! Then check to make sure they are adhering to this safety rule.
- Reinforce with kids to never click on a link that they are not absolutely sure about; it may be a malicious link. Cybercriminals often attempt to lure kids in with offers of free stuff, contest, or quizzes. Teach your kids to stay clear of these, they could well be deceptive.
- If your child wants to make a post public, remind them that you can see it. And their grandparents, and their teacher, and their future employer. They might rethink that status.
Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to online safety! Parenting Online is the best way to know what your kids are doing and teach them safe, appropriate behavior online!