The Ins and Outs of Facebook
Yesterday, I wrote a general post on Facebook and why I am leaning toward allowing my son on to the site even though he is under the age limit of 13.
But Facebook is such a huge, huge topic that I felt like I missed some things about how to handle the site itself.
Facebook is not merely social, it is a business. Ever think: "wow this is so amazing I posted about wanting Uggs and now there is an Uggs ad, right beside my profile!" That doesn't happen magically, that is because Facebook monitors your behaviour on the site and links you up to advertisers. It is essentially a giant advertising site. It doesn't matter how private your settings are, the people at Facebook know everything about you and they store that information in huge server warehouses dotted all over the globe.
But Facebook is a fun and useful site and your kids are going to be part of it. So don't run from it, learn about it. Here are some tips:
Privacy: Your privacy doesn't matter to Facebook, but it should matter to you and your kids. So make sure your privacy settings are set to Friends or Friends of Friends in almost all categories. Privacy settings can be found in the upper right hand drop down menu AND in the Edit Profile section.
If you want to see how your profile looks to people searching you, check the 'View As' tab. No information other than the bare bones should be available if you have set all your Privacy settings to Friends.
Friends: No matter how locked down your privacy settings are, once you write a status update or comment on a friend's wall or do anything on Facebook, your friends can do what they want with the information. Even if you delete your original message, the information can live forever on your Friend's pages. So your Friends matter. You can divide your friends into lists and give them different access to your information -- that is higher level Facebook and you will get there.
Chris Vollum, of Social Media Trust said that your privacy is only as good as your LEAST private friend, which means that if your friends set their privacy settings to everyone, then anyone reading their profile, can possibly see your posts as well. This is how information and party invites spread like wildfire.
I try and use the litmus test of "have I shared a meal with this person?" to decide if I will friend someone on Facebook. I am encouraging my son to do the same, but he knows, and I know, that teens collect friends as status symbols.
Tags: Teens love to tag each other in photos, especially in compromising positions. Make sure your teens have their Tag settings set so they can pre-approve the tags before they go on their profile. And also, you want to have the setting where a person can be "Checked into places" turned off.
Status Updates: It goes without saying that you want to teach your teen to think before they post. Part of being a teenager is being impulsive and posting inapropriate and hurtful things on Facebook is probably the most common mistake that teens (and not-so-teens) make.
And remember, every time Facebook revamps their site they set all your privacy settings back to Everyone, so you have to go through and do it all over again. Remind your kids to do it too.
Whether you hold your kids' password or friend them is up to you. I have heard good arguments on both sides of this debate. In the short term, we do not plan to ask for my son's password, but we will friend him. (And we might just ask some cool cousins to friend him too, but not in a creepy spy way.)
As Chris Vollum said, it is easy to forget that the virtual world can have real world implications. There is no doubt in my mind that my kid, and yours, will encounter some of those consequences but that is how they learn and hopefully grow a little wiser.
Kids are smart. Smarter than adults in some ways -- they understand technology as if it is an extension of their own body. So ask them questions and for advice on how to do things. Don't make Facebook or any kind of social media some secretive, unspoken activity. The point of social media is connection, but that connection has to start at home.
For more information on Facebook, check out commonsense.org's Facebook for Parents.
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about a school that banned hugging. Yes, hugging. Wonder what that Principal thinks of Facebook?
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