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.

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Teen Girl Hides Facebook Date in Closet. For 8 Days.

A 13 year-old Detroit girl met a boy on Facebook and decided it would be a good idea to hide him in her closet. For 8 days. The boy, 19 years-old, was finally discovered by the girl’s mother at least a week after he first went into “hiding.”

There are so many issues with this particular circumstance that I don’t even know where to begin. Since very few details were released about this alarm-raising situation, I can only assume and comment so much. But I can’t help but to wonder how a barely-teen girl managed to get away with this. For at least a week.

The only other detail given was that the young girl admitted to having sex with the 19 year-old boy. Upon discovery the mother kept the boy in the house until police arrived, and he is being held on sexual misconduct charges. You see, the age of consent in the state of Michigan is 16. And three years is a long time to wait when you’re barely old enough to start high school. So you might as well just sit tight.

Girls, I know what you’re thinking. 19 years old doesn’t seem that bad, and meeting someone on Facebook is just like meeting someone at a high school football game. Only it’s not. Online social networks are great for keeping tabs on friends, looking at pictures of cute boys and virtually stalking them by constantly checking their status updates. They are not great, however, for finding people to meet in real life. Not when you’re only 13.

And moms, I know what you’re thinking. Facebook is a dangerous place for your teenage daughter to socialize, and it can lead to adverse behavior like sneaking boys into the house and hiding them in the closet. Well, that’s true, if your daughter is inclined to do these kinds of things. And that is a very scary thought.

There’s no real way to provide a resolution for the problem, because each situation is different. There’s no blanket answer on how to monitor or control teens’ actions on social networks such as Facebook. There’s also no real way of conveying the true dangers of meeting strangers in real life, based on initial contact that was made online.

All I can really say is pursuing a halfway decent relationship with your teen daughter is a good place to start. Parents are no longer naive to the ways of the online networking world, and ensuring that your teen daughter isn’t naive either is a necessity in today’s world. However you decide to handle these lessons from a parenting perspective is up to you as a parent, but teaching teens the etiquette of online socializing is a valuable lesson that will carry over into the workplace and beyond.

And feel free to check the kids’ closets every now and again. They’re perfect hiding places, you know.

image credit: xJenniferx

White Flight. The Economy of Facebook and MySpace.

Facebook and MySpace have been at war for years now, with the two major social networks vying for world domination, claiming country by country, demographic by demographic. A recent speech titled “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online” by Danah Boyd of the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society begs the question, why does there seem to be a race and class divide when it comes to Facebook and MySpace?

Is Facebook really more elite, with MySpace having become the “ghetto” of online social networking? It’s an interesting question that forces us to look at social networks in a new light. Chris Matyszczyk of CNET likens the shift from MySpace to Facebook to the white flight we see all too often when a once-established neighborhood becomes a little too diverse for its white residents.

An interesting perspective, and one that’s readily able to relate to in American culture. It’s a major part of our history and has been so even before the days of the modern suburbs. But it also speaks to a long history of institutionalized classism as well as racism, which often go hand in hand. Is that really the level of analysis we’re ready to apply to online social networking? If that’s the case, then there are some serious questions we need to be directing to the founders, executives and investors of both MySpace and Facebook.

But first let’s look at the Utopian side of things. Both Facebook and MySpace are online social networks, meaning that they’re virtual pieces of property and can be accessed by anyone that has an Internet connection. Utopia, right? Not really. There was already the long-standing matter of Internet access as it applies to the race/class divide. If you’re a racial minority and economically deterred, then Internet access is a novelty. You are relegated to public access Internet points and your mobile device, which may or may not be a smart phone capable of high functions for social networking.

While the technology divide is narrowing, it becomes less and less of an issue for the purposes of this particular case, but it cannot be entirely ignored, especially as it was still a factor when both MySpace and Facebook were launched and began to gain major traction.

But another factor I find noteworthy is the approach employed by each social network in question; MySpace began as an online tool for getting musicians set up with their own website, while Facebook began as an exclusive network for Harvard students. MySpace came about when the only other major option for widespread social networking was Friendster, which also targeted the college-age demographic. The tactic used for MySpace included posting photos of scantily clad users and enticing new sign ups. Facebook required a confirmed .edu email address just to let you in the front door.

The two strategies towards growth, new user acquisition and existing user retention are vastly different and inherently attract different crowds. So is this race/class divide self-selecting or in fact more institutional? If the trend is self-selecting then we can attribute much of the world’s view on these social networks to be indicative of current mentality for those that use the networks. We can also expect to see some changes with both MySpace and Facebook. Perhaps Facebook will too become a dated neighborhood, run down by the “wrong crowd” and witness another white flight to the next hot spot. And that hot spot would likely be a revived and gentrified MySpace, full of nostalgia and gritty determination to be hip.

We’d also be able to apply these theories to other social networks, and I don’t think online social networking has been around long enough to draw any solid conclusions in that regard. This is mainly because very different strategies are applied to each social network that is launched, and many of the social networks we’ve seen in the past decade have been rather niche. From LinkedIn to BlackPlanet, you can expect a different crowd no matter where you go. There will almost always be a different crowd with a different objective. Fortunately these are all factors that Boyd studies in her ongoing work and research in social media.

What’s disappointing is the fact that these strategies can ultimately lead to an overwhelming sense of distinction based on race and class, especially when you think of the business concerns revolving around the spending power of the actual demographics on MySpace and Facebook versus the widespread perception that could either deter or encourage the stimulation of an economy around each network. From developer apps to advertising campaigns, the affect that race and class distinctions have on any business is real.

What Comes After Facebook?

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I came across a Facebook look-alike the other day and it reminded me of that era of constant clone creation, where every other site that was submitted for review seemed to be a carbon copy of MySpace, Facebook or Twitter. We don’t see such clones very often anymore, namely because there’s little purpose in creating a standalone destination site. It’s cheaper, faster and more efficient to build an application that runs on the platform of a larger, already established social network, such as Facebook.

In fact, Facebook has really set the standards for the integrated social network platform, as it enables developers to leverage users’ social graphs for gaining new users, creating interactive applications, and building brand recognition. You know, the true nature of viral online activity within the realm of absolute social networking.

So will we ever see a return to standalone social networking destination sites? The application route via integrated platforms has already proven itself as a business model. We all held our breath to see how developers, users and investors would respond to Facebook’s platform, and once applications started to receive funding and become acquisition targets, we had our proof of concept. From then on, we’ve seen the steady growth of other platforms created for advertising and monetizing applications within these integrated platforms, some of which are cross-network or network-agnostic. The current outcropping of virtual goods monetization only spurs the revenue-generating potential of integrated social network platforms, with Facebook still at the center of it all.
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Gal’s Guide, Calling for New Writers!

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Fellow Chicagoan Blagica Stefanovski is looking for some gal pal writers to contribute to her Gal’s Guide, an online resource for women in their 20s living in the Windy City. You don’t have to be in your 20s to contribute, but if you have something constructive, insightful and helpful to say, make sure you get in contact with Blagica.

blagica.pngShe’s gotten several requests for more regular content, as well as requests to become contributing writers on her site. Now’s your chance to send in a writing submission, or nominate someone that you think would be a good fit for the Gal’s Guide. As a forewarning: clean up your Facebook profile first! That means no outlandish party pics for the world to see. Make ’em private already!

As you can see, one of Blagica’s most recent posts on Gal’s Guide has an interesting tie-in to the last post I did right here on KristenNicole.com. Click here to get in touch with Blagica.