Facebook Reverses Teens Privacy with Public Posts

Facebook Reverses Teens Privacy with Public Posts

Facebook announced last week that the privacy settings have changed for Teens on Facebook.

Facebook TeensPreviously when teenage users of Facebook (aged between 13yrs and 18yrs) posted, they could not select the option to public post, unless they lied about their age and put it over 18yrs. Teenage posts were only able to go out to “friends only” or “Friends of friends”. Facebook announced last week, that teens can now post to the general public. This change to public posting, according to Facebook, is to bring the social network more inline with other networks like Instagram, Twitter and others that allow teens to post publicly outside their friends list. This change to privacy now allows for teens on Facebook to also enable “Followers” meaning people can “follow” a 13yr old on Facebook without “friending” them and can see any public information about that teen including public posts. Facebook profiles can have many thousands of “followers” Many privacy experts are understandably suspicious and upset about the changes.

Facebook Claim Privacy Setting Improvement

Whilst Facebook have framed this change as an improvement to the privacy settings, in that they have made a change to newly joined teens wherein their status updates now default to “Friends only” first of all. They also defend their changes by announcing they now have a pop up to warn teens, at least twice, that their public posts will be going out to strangers and non friends if they post them publicly. Some commentators explain that this change now frees up teen celebrities like Malala, to be able to use their Facebook profiles more effectively.

The obvious problem with this, is that most teen celebrities most likely have PR agencies or Managers helping them with their social media, and they probably have a Facebook fan page set up for them for public posts. There is no need for teen celebrities to have the option of public posting from a Facebook profile that only allows login from one person. It certainly seems a baffling change when there are so many concerns with Teenagers exposing themselves publicly, because of their misunderstanding of the privacy settings on Facebook as it is. Facebook claiming that teens are well versed in privacy settings ignores the point that many teens as young as 13years are really not mature enough to decide if it is wise to post a status update publicly.

Teens Who Want To Be Internet Celebrities

Teen Celebrities
Teen Celebrities

This change makes it even more difficult for parents to make sure their child is safe on Facebook, with the child able to post every update publicly. There are many teens that purposely decide to post publicly even knowing that there are good privacy settings, some teens are motivated by fame and attention online, and see Facebook as a way to gain “fans”, even if they aren’t starring in a movie or reality T.V  show. You can see this type of behaviour on Ask.FM and Instagram and Tumbler where some teens are so desperate for online stardom they are being followed and liked by hundreds of strangers and adults many of whom don’t have their best interest in mind at all.

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My concern is that Facebook will now be like the bad old days of MySpace where many kids with public profiles were bullied and stalked so badly that they self harmed. Parents must talk to their teens about NOT enabling public posts so that their kids have a higher level of privacy, so that if they do indeed post something that can be misinterpreted and passed on to humiliate them, it will at least be more restricted.

Teens Used In Facebook Marketing

Facebook’s graph search and new marketing strategy have made it clear, that any publicly posted content will be included in future marketing and searches. I can only imagine that allowing teens to post publicly is part of the strategy so that they can be included in the proposed marketing. Using teen public posts for marketing and search purposes is quite risky, particularly if your teens image and name is used for a product that you would rather they were not associated with.

This new privacy settings change only underlines my plea to parents to not allow kids under 13+ on Facebook.

With this change already implemented, Facebook is even more dangerous now for younger children. Unfortunately many parents will be unaware of these changes, they don’t read the Facebook blog posts, or social media websites. It will be up to cyber safety educators like myself to point it out, unless they see it discussed on the news or on current affairs programs. I see no good reason for Facebook to have changed this setting, and have already pointed it out to my own children who use Facebook to be sure they don’t make a mistake and post something publicly.

For most teens there will be absolutely no reason to publically post, but there are certainly many reasons not to. Existing and future Teen celebrities can certainly have a Facebook Fan Page where there is already the facility for extra admins to manage the page, one of which could be a supervising parent, or management. Existing Facebook Fan Pages work just fine for these purposes, there is no need for Teenage Facebook profiles to have a public face.

What are your thoughts? Would this be enough to push you to take your child off Facebook? Does your child post publicly any where else?

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  • Omar Fayyad

    I certainly disagree with the new policy. It doesn’t seem that FB team are aware of the impact of social media on teenagers. A teenager should not be given the permission to publicly post updates as they don’t usually think of how it could impact their personal lives and we’ve already have several stories in this regard.

    • Thankyou Omar for your comment. I agree, as much as I think there are some incredibly smart teens online, many of them certainly don’t have the maturity to consider the implications of posting content that might hurt them in the future. I want teens to enjoy the benefits of being connected online but in a safe environment. I’d also like to see Instagram have teen accounts where posting to friends is the default rather than having to opt in and protect your accounts.

    • Thankyou Omar for your comment. I agree, as much as I think there are some incredibly smart teens online, many of them certainly don’t have the maturity to consider the implications of posting content that might hurt them in the future. I want teens to enjoy the benefits of being connected online but in a safe environment. I’d also like to see Instagram have teen accounts where posting to friends is the default rather than having to opt in and protect your accounts.