The power of Facebook’s Graph Search is that it taps directly into the activity likes of Facebook users to generate personalized, relevant results. Yet privacy concerns are becoming more widespread as a result of this new form of data mining, especially for Facebook’s teen users.
The site is no stranger to questions or even widespread anger regarding privacy issues—and according to a recent post from the Facebook Safety Team (yes, there is such a thing), protecting younger users remains a top priority.
“As with all of our products, we designed Graph Search to take into account the unique needs of teens on Facebook. On Facebook, many things teens are likely to do – such as adding information to their timelines or sharing status updates – can only be shared with a maximum of Friends of Friends. In addition, for certain searches that could help to identify a young person by age or by their location, results will only show to that person’s Friends, or Friends of Friends who are also between the age of 13-17.”
That’s reassuring, but not nearly enough. For instance, raise your hand if you’ve ever lied about your age when you were a teenager in order to get something you wanted and probably shouldn’t have had. Pretty sure I’ve made my point with that one, but bottom line, don’t assume your progeny won’t invent a DOB that allows them to skirt restrictions imposed by Facebook relative to age. I know that never got in my way when I was a teen (sorry Mom).
There are some concrete steps and additional safeguards you can take as a parent to protect your teen users online. It might not make you popular with your kids, but if you’re like us, keeping them safe online is probably more important to you than them being happy about it. And pedophiles? They’re everywhere.
Review Their About Me Info
Check out any basic information that’s been shared as part of your teen’s Facebook profile. If their privacy settings allow others to see this information, then it will show up for anyone using Graph Search to look for this kind of thing. So think about how keen you are on someone knowing where they go to school, their sex, their age, what city they live in and, if they’re using check-ins or have locations enabled on photos they post, someone could potentially know exactly where they live. Scary as hell, isn’t it?
Manage The Activity Log
The activity log is a streamlined list of what’s been posted on Facebook, and this is a great way to make changes to who can see past photos and posts, for example, as well as adjust settings regarding what’s visible on the Facebook Timeline. Facebook unveiled some new tools that can help more easily manage profile and privacy settings, including new privacy shortcuts and app permissions, so you may want to check those out, too.
Do a ‘Pre-Clean Clean’
For anybody who has a housekeeper, you probably know just what I mean. That pre-clean clean is just as important as the clean itself. And sadly, sometimes takes longer. You might want to try a tool like SimpleWash, which will allow you to quickly see what information and images are appearing on your teen’s Facebook profile and adjust the content accordingly.
Communication: The Key to Online Safety for Teens
Privacy and teens is always a tricky topic, but if you can let your kids know that Internet safety is a big issue that’ll hopefully go a long way. Deciding how to deal with your kids and the web, protecting their privacy yet keeping them safe is your prerogative, but Facebook and other online social networks pose what could be extreme dangers for kids, now and in the future. Our goal is to provide you with information that might help keep you aware of the dangers and to help provide options that might help make keeping your kids safe easier.
Graph Search is still in a limited release so it’s a good time to take a look at your teen’s profile now and maybe put some protections in place before it rolls out to all users. This is also ideal time to talk with your teen about Internet use, including the most important rule: nothing they put on the web can ever be erased, so posting and sharing carefully is important.
And don’t worry, you’ll survive the teen years. I did and they were so terrific that by the time I got one crop raised, I gave birth to another. But I’m thankful that when my kids were teens, the biggest worry I had was online chat rooms where creepy old guys hung out trying to start conversations with young girls. Today, the dangers and opportunities for risk and exposure for our kids are exponentially greater. As a parent, I’m not afraid to admit that they scare the hell out of me. And educated and aware parents are a big part of the equation when it comes to keeping kids safe.
As always, if you have questions about this, let us know.
Image: Sam Felder via Compfight cc
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