Facebook recently decided to allow teens to share posts publicly and allow following. If you have teenage kids, or you are a teenage kid, you might be wondering what the implications of this are. Here’s what you need to know.
In effect, the new Facebook teenager accounts are just like regular accounts, but with a few safety features built in. This is good in a way, as it means teens will learn how to moderate their own privacy before they are suddenly thrust into the spotlight.
What’s Still Protected?
Minors still benefit from certain protection, such as reminders when they post publicly. Their contact details, birthday and school details are also hidden from public view. Minors must review tags by default and location details are turned off by default.
This means that teens are actually used to taking some responsibility for their own privacy. Allowing public posts and follows is the next step.
Public Posts & Commenting
Until now, a minor on Facebook was limited to an audience of “Friends of Friends”, so the jump to public is quite a large one. When you make a public post, that post can be seen by anyone you are friends with, anyone following you, anyone who searches using Facebook Search Graph and anyone who is friends with someone commenting on your post. Conversely, when you comment on a public post, your comment can be seen by all these people too. And those people can follow the link back to your timeline.
I think this is the most important thing to note. A savvy teenager may choose to post publicly and allow followers, yet a less-savvy teenager may post comments on those public comments, not realising how public those comments, and their own profile, have now become.
The Graph Search aspect is also a big one. These public posts could appear in all sorts of unexpected searches, even years from now. You never really know who will find your post or what they were searching for, and that’s a little creepy.
It’s also really important to consider the implications of public posts in terms of location and tagging. For instance, if you and your friends are all out watching a movie, you might want to tag everyone and give a location. Even amongst friends this has its potential safety issues, but when the audience is public and any of the tagged users have followers, then you start to see major security and safety problems. What if one of the followers is a stalker, and decides to show up at the cinema and try to find you in person? Or what if you’ve previously shared enough information to give away the location of your house? Someone might break in, knowing you’re out for a few hours.
In short, unless you are doing something that specifically requires a public post, like raising money for a charity, friends of friends is probably public enough for most people, adults included. Don’t forget that by locking down your own posts you are also protecting your friends from making accidental public comments.
Followers on Facebook are a lot like followers on Twitter. They find you however which way and then they can see your public posts in their own news feed alongside their regular friends, if they have any. You have to manually allow following before someone can start following you. The question is really, do you want followers? And why?
Think on this: Who would follow a teenage girl on Facebook? Well, teenagers you don’t know and who want to know you. Teenagers you don’t like, but who want you to like them. Teenagers you don’t like who don’t like you either, but want to know the second you do something dumb. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings & cousins. Not just your own, but of your friends’. Teachers. Creepy old men who think the photo is hot. Fake accounts by any of the previously mentioned people.
Basically, it’s a list of people who you really don’t want to see your posts. Teachers? Your friend’s dad? The creepy 25 year old guy who likes to go to parties with teenagers? Your stalker? Your principal?
None of this is good. Don’t let people follow you unless you’ve got a very good reason. And even if you do, keep these follower types in mind.
Yes, one day, all teenagers will want to look for a job. You can use Facebook to help you look for a job, but regardless of what method you use, your Facebook profile had better look squeaky clean. Remember, it’s not just your drunken photos that lose you job opportunities. It’s also your immature comments, poor judgement and terrible spelling. Hide it all!
Teens, you know how you feel when you read stuff you wrote a year ago? Well, adults feel that way about just about everything you write. Hide all but the very best of your writing if you want to appear job-ready.
Teach Your Kids Responsible Facebook Usage
As a parent, you need to know how to teach your kids responsible Facebook usage. And to do that, you need to understand it well yourself. Facebook has tried to help, with a dedicated safety section, and sub-section for both parents and teenagers. At MakeUseOf, we’ve written dozens of articles about how to stay safe using Facebook, how to get your kids to use Facebook responsibly and how to monitor your teens.
Specifically, parents should read up on the following things: privacy and Facebook Graph search; top privacy tips for Facebook apps; regular Facebook Graph Searches and what they might find; how Facebook can be used as an interpersonal weapon (and how to stop it); and how to spot a fake account.
What do you tell your teenagers about Facebook privacy? Teens, what do your friends do that they really shouldn’t? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credit: Facebook