Facebook just became both more private and more public at
the same time, for teenaged users.
The social networking giant has changed the rules for
teenagers between 13 and 17. Previously, they could only publish status
updates visible by friends of friends, rather than by the general public. Now,
Facebook is giving them the option to post publicly, meaning that complete strangers with no connection to them at all can read their stuff.
The company is also allowing users between 13 and 17 to turn
on the 'Follow' option, so that their public posts can be seen in people's
newsfeeds. This enables someone who is not friends with a teenager, but wants
to keep track of what they are doing, to read about it in their own timeline.
They will be able to find and track teens who post publicly.
Facebook is trying to be somewhat responsible for teen
privacy, by changing the default sharing settings on teenaged
accounts. Previously, any post made by a teen user would be automatically
visible by their friends, and their friends' friends. Now, however, posts are
automatically set to be visible only by friends. Teens can change that setting manually to make it public, but if they do that, they are warned
twice before being allowed to go ahead.
“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,” said
That's a bit of a blanket statement, though, isn't it? Sure, there are plenty of teens out there who are sensible and safe. But there are lots of others who haven't got a clue.
In spite of all the warnings and privacy measures, this could create problems for teens at risk. Even without the option to post publicly, plenty have fallen into trouble. One
teen was stalked by a man in his thirties on Facebook, while another was
flashed by a man who tracked
her down via status updates on the social network. And then there’s murderer Peter
Chapman, who used
Facebook to stalk his victims.
Sure, teens want to be heard. But sometimes, the wrong
people hear them, and even when privacy settings were higher, they were still
in danger. It's up to the parents to teach them how to use social networking
properly, but of course, many parents don't have the first idea about social media, or don't care – and even those that
do may be trying to teach kids who don't want to listen. There are lots of
13-year-olds who think that they know everything.
What do you think? Should Facebook be opening up public
posts to people under 18?
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets