Facebook Very Quietly Announces They’re Loosening Up Privacy Controls For Teens

shutterstock_144353677__1382201451_142.196.156.251As if the use of social media by their teens wasn’t already terrifying enough for parents, Facebook is turning the terror up a notch – by now allowing users aged 13 to 17 to post publicly on Facebook. Thanks Facebook, and screw you.

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. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook.

I don’t know that I would say teens are the “savviest” users of social media. I would definiteIy say Facebook was the “savviest” at choosing when to announce this news. It went largely under the radar when it was announced on Wednesday, as the public was consumed with the developments in the government shutdown. I would also definitely say Facebook is the “savviest” at mining and collecting user data, and then using that data for profit. As reported in the NYT this week:

Facebook has encountered controversy over its privacy policies in the past and is now facing additional scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into other proposed changes to the company’s privacy policies. Those policies would give Facebook automatic permission to take a user’s post, including a post made by a teenager, and turn it into an advertisement broadcast to anyone who could have seen the original post.

So basically, teenagers can now post video, photos and status updates that can be seen by everyone – not just their friends or people their friends know. The one aspect of the site that made it seem a little safer than sites like Twitter or Instagram – the inability to publish these things “publicly” – is now vanishing.

These changes are designed to improve the experience for teens on Facebook. As part of this, we are also looking at ways to improve the way teens use messages and connect with people they may know.

People they “may” know? I don’t think I’m alone in not wanting my teenage stepdaughter to connect with people she “may” know on the Internet. Parents will need to be even more involved in monitoring their teen’s social media use. The bottom of this page illustrates how to show your teen how to set the visibility of his or her posts.

I don’t think I’m overreacting. I think social media has proven time and time again to be dangerous for teens.

(photo: Kobby Dagan/ Shutterstock)

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