Teens, Be Aware of Facebook’s New Privacy Settings

Facebook has rolled out new privacy settings, making more of its users’ content searchable on the web. While the changes appear to be subtle, they have large implications on the future of Facebook and its users’ content. For teens, it’s important that they are aware of what the changes mean and how they can be affected by the new look and feel of Facebook.

As I mentioned, the changes are subtle. So the actual interface of Facebook won’t have noticeable changes. It’s what’s going on behind the scenes, to a certain extent, that parents and teens should be aware of. What Facebook aims to do is make its users’ profile content public by default. This is a large departure from the stance Facebook has previously taken with its default privacy settings, as Facebook was hailed as one of the most private social networks out there.

The upside is that Facebook still offers the privacy settings we’ve come to know and love–it’s just the default settings that have changed, dropping hints of an oncoming release of user data across the whole of the web. Make sure that teens are aware of the changes at Facebook, as more of their information may be made available to those on Facebook outside of their immediate friends, and eventually that information may be accessible to the entire web.

As teens are now growing up in a decidedly digital age, the ramifications of such public access to one’s past and present lives are still unknown. That means precautions need to be taken now in order to preserve their future safety.

For Facebook, the monetization of users’ accounts is impending–it’s a move that Facebook would eventually have to make if it wants to generate revenue from the free services it’s providing to users. See–nothing’s ever really free, is it?

I have a more in-depth look at Facebook’s possible perspective on the subject here, but I did want to make my readers aware of this, as several of you seem to appreciate my point of view on teen Internet usage.

An Ex-Teen Reconsiders The Privacy Status Option

I’ve personally noticed in the past week that kids have more options these days for social networking, and every once in a while it gets scary. I know that this isn’t entirely new, but through a few personal experiences, it’s been drawn to my attention in more prominent manner as of late. My little brother is a pro at taking pictures of himself using his camera phone, and a few other pre-teens I know have taken to online dating. Dating?

Now, when I was a teenager, social networking made up a good portion of my time, especially as it had begun to really pick up steam just as I was getting ready to trek off to college. Back then we didn’t really have private profile status options, or niche networks to choose what type of information went where. And as a teenager, I was fully aware that “putting myself out there” was somewhat risky business, but I still wasn’t fully cognizant of what all that meant.

When it came down to it, I was probably sharing more information than I needed to. Teens are far more aware these days, but parents still have a growing concern over the amount of information that their kids are placing on the web, even if it’s in the for of an image, and not always a direct phrase or set of data that would be immediately recognized as personally identifiable data.

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So are me and my friends just getting older and wiser, and have kids these days learned from our mistakes? Then again, it could just be the “phase” excuse, where teens do things that the rest of us don’t understand, and we call it a phase, hoping they’ll grow out of it. Just like we used to shop at Spencers and PacSun, we would now rather head over to Macy’s and Brooks Brothers. But will things like additional status options for social networks solve the problem?

There are a few additional issues to look at as well, one of which is the fact that giving teens the options doesn’t mean they’ll take them. In response to such attitudes, which could lead to a bit of “mommy and daddy know best” reactions, there has been a good amount of regulation in conjunction with th social networking providers themselves to protect the youngsters.

How far will that go, especially as social networking now extends across devices, in multiple manifestations, such as mobile hand-helds and video games? While I regret to see such a strong push for increased regulation (like permission slips), I am interested to see how the powers that be will further respond to the rapid ways in which social networking options make their way into every corner of our lives.