It is interesting that a teen is not allowed to sign a contract but is allowed to showcase his life on the biggest social media platform existing. Officially, teens from the age of 13 years are allowed to join the cyber mogul Facebook and to create their own personal profile.
Today, Facebook announced that it will change the default privacy settings for all their teen users (ages 13-17) to ‘friends’. This means that their status updates can only be viewed by their friends and no longer by ‘friends of friends’.
This should help teens to protect their privacy and limit their outreach. Saying, with a simple click the user can set back the settings to ‘friends of friends’ or even ‘public’. Therefore, Facebook will remind each user in this demographic before posting a new status about the status settings. This reminder will help teens to understand that their posting will be indeed public and will be seen by more than just their friends.
If the user chooses to make their post public, once more Facebook will push out a privacy notification. In other words, Facebook becomes a nagging parent 😉
Why are the privacy settings such a big deal? Of course, parents, teachers and authorities are concerned about paedophiles, rapist and more importantly, other teens. Cyberbullying is a huge topic in every school and home nowadays. But will changing the default privacy settings help protect teens from child trafficking and other terrible things that could happen?
Probably not. Even Facebook admits: “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.”
Beside the concern of cyber security, there is another controversial aspect of having teens on Facebook. Facebook is much more than a social networking platform. It is also a very complex search engine as well as a platform for advertisers. With the introduction to Facebook Search Graph, every profile on Facebook becomes searchable. This means that advertising or marketing companies can easily collect data about these young demographics through the native search functionality but also Facebook can sell the collected data to 3rd parties.
Most recently, Facebook has developed a program that turns its users’ information into product endorsements that are displayed to their “friends.” These ads are far more effective than a normal ad as the “friends” trust the user. Also if a business wants to reach out to the young demographic, they can easily select the criteria their target audience need to comply with and set up targeted campaigns to the teens. Nothing wrong with that in general, just a question of integrity from my point of view as teens are not allowed to sign a contract, how are they allowed to consent to receive targeted ads as well as that their data is sold to 3rd parties?
Nevertheless, at least Facebook is concerned about privacy settings and takes actions on this topic. In comparison to other social networking platforms such as Twitter which has no privacy settings at all.
Facebook hasn’t disclosed how many of its nearly 1.2 billon users are teenagers. But as more and more adults, parents and grandparents are joining the platform, teens loose more and more interest in Facebook. Too much parenting, drama and control happening on the world’s largest social media channel.
Channels like Snapchat are much more attractive to the younger demographic as their parents don’t understand how to use, how to capture and how to control this medium yet. As always, teens try to be rebellious. They will change back their privacy settings, they will switch to another channel if needed.
How are we going to educate our children to take advantage of 21st century media instead of restricting them? What are your thoughts on this topic? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below.
Photo credit: On the ferry by Matt Murray.