Parents beware: Your teenager’s Facebook posts may not be as private as you think.
The largest social media network of all, with a user base of more than a billion people worldwide, recently loosened available privacy settings for posts made by youths aged 13 to 17. With recent changes to default settings, only friends of the Facebook user will be able to see his/her post (as opposed to those friends’ friends). However, that user now also has the option to expand the reach of the post but making it completely public—an option that wasn’t previously available to teens on Facebook.
“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,” stated an official post from Facebook announcing the change.
While new for Facebook, the option to share publicly via social media isn’t that novel for rival networks like Twitter, Instagram and Vine, where any user of any age can create public posts. This change for Facebook is perhaps tied to not just being able to compete with other social platforms’ functionality, but also for the ad dollars being spent on them. The stakes are certainly high: industry research projects brands will spend $10 billion dollars a year on social media advertising by 2017.
This change may also indicate that Facebook is struggling to retain the 13-17-year-old demographic—coveted by big brands that want to market to them—and wants to make the network appear more open and, well, social. Recent reports indicate that daily activity on Facebook by teens is trending downward.
Regardless of which social media networks gain popularity with kids in the future, the key takeaway for concerned parents is to talk to teens about being a responsible user of social platforms, and reminding them that anything that’s posted online is going to be there forever. Being careful of what’s posted—and making an effort to review and understand each post’s visibility settings—can go a long way in protecting one’s privacy.