Facebook Changes Privacy Policy for Teens: Are We Ok With This?

On Wednesday October 16th, Facebook announced 2 significant changes to its privacy policies for teens.

First – the good:

FB Privacy SettingsIn general with Facebook, you can control who you share your status updates with – whether it be with a single person or multiple people simultaneously. Up until yesterday, when someone aged 13 through 17 signed up for a new Facebook account, the “audience” for their posts (i.e. who could see what you posted online) was set by default to “Friends of Friends”. Now the teen could change this, but this was the initial setting, which meant that unless the teen knew about this, and was savvy enough to change this, there was a fairly large audience that could see not only their initial post, but all future posts. The good news: Now, when a teen signs up for a Facebook account, the initial audience for their first post will be set to the more limited choice of “Friends”.

Next – the not so good:

According to the Facebook press release, teens now have the “choice to post publicly on Facebook… …In addition, teens will be able to turn on Follow so that their public posts can be seen in people’s News Feeds”.

Example FB Teen Public postsWhat does this mean? Teenagers (ages 13 to 17) can now post status updates, videos and images on Facebook that can be seen by anyone, not just their friends or people who know their friends. According to the press release, “the changes are designed to improve the experience for teens on Facebook…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.”

In truth, teens can already post publicly (and are doing so) on sites such as Twitter, Instagram, ask.fm and Kik. But the key difference, according to NY Times journalist Vindu Goel in his article Facebook Eases Privacy Rules for Teenagers, is that “Facebook requires users to post under their real identities”.

Of course this is incredibly attractive to companies that market products to children – the more information, the better the targeting. But how risky is this?

Pop-Up Privacy WarningAccording to Facebook, they have taken teen safety into consideration with inline reminders that pop-up whenever a teen chooses public as the audience for a post…and a second time if they continue posting publicly. But is this enough? Lawmakers continue to debate the threats to children from online sexual predators and cyber-bullying, particularly in the wake of the recent Rebecca Sedwick suicide and subsequent arrest of the two teenagers whose constant bullying – authorities say – led to her death.

One final consideration: according to the NY Times article mentioned above, the FTC is conducting an inquiry into other proposed changes in the Facebook’s privacy policies. One change in particular would give Facebook permission to take a user’s post and turn it into an advertisement to be broadcast to anyone who could have seen the original post. Implication – your teen’s foolish spur of the moment public post could one day turn into an ad that is broadcast to the world. And again, keep in mind – it was posted under their real name.

So, has Facebook upped the “risk” quotient when it comes to kids and the internet? I think so.

What do you think???

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


14 Responses to “Facebook Changes Privacy Policy for Teens: Are We Ok With This?”

  1. I got in a MASSIVE argument yesterday about how old a kid should be before a parent allows them on there and how much privacy the parent will allow. I will absolutely monitor all Facebook activity. Too many cyber crimes happen for me to let my child handle it alone. Most important subject in the media right now, I’m glad you wrote it!

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Thanks! I agree – incredibly incredibly important topic in the media today. Too many kids online with too little supervision with disastrous consequences. Even one suicide from cyberbullying is too many! Thanks

  2. ask.fm says:

    This software is good for anonymous people in the Ask.fm communication site and its main function is always to track the IP address and the Username of its users particularly the ones utilized to bully, abuse and sexually afflict other users within the site. http://www.slideshare.net/askfmtracker/askfm-tracker

  3. Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

    We couldn’t agree more! Thanks so much for helping us raise awareness! We appreciate both of you!!! 🙂

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