Social media for parents: Facebook

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr — these are all the equivalent to the mall or an arcade. Think about where we hung out as kids — those worlds are now social media — and anyone can contact them there. Parents need to be very aware of their kids social media accounts, have the passwords and check the accounts often.

Facebook has protections in place for users under the age of 18, as long as they don’t lie about their age.

See also: Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and Snapchat

What about search results, can kids show up there?

While their names can show up in Facebook search, and be friend requested by strangers, everyone has the option of limit who can they are seen in those searches and who can submit a friend request to them. You can turn that search option off and limit friend requests to only be “friends of friends”

So why is 13 the age kids are allowed un social media?

There are government guidelines set by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It basically says that 13 is the age that a person’s information can be collected online. So 13 is the age a person can sign up for email, and social media.

TIP: Facebook has a well-designed site that breaks down and explains everything that you might want to know about minors on Facebook and protecting their privacy. All parents should review Facebook’s Family Safety Center (and always only “friend” the people you actually know):

If you have a Facebook page, you can “like” this section and get updates from them.

What is Public? Depending on their settings, minors may receive messages from people who are friends of friends on Facebook, which may include adults they don’t know. Facebook says that while a minor might see the word “public” when they choose their options, that only goes as far as friends of friends. Once they turn 18, then public really does become public.

More on Facebook minors and privacy:

When adults post something, they have the option to post to the “public.” Kids are limited to only allow “friends of their friends.” This includes tagging. Tagging is where a picture can have names attached to it, either by the person posting it, or others users who see it. Minors can only be tagged by friends of friends. Depending on their settings, any of their friends’ friends can tag them. Ideally their settings should always be set to friends only for better protection and safety.

Tag Review is turned on by default for minors, meaning they need to approve any tags before they appear on their page. If they turn this off anyone, including friend of friends can tag them automatically, and they will just appear on their page. Even when off, Facebook tries to limit the friends of friends tags. So they try to build in a protection that minors have to approve the tags done by a friend of friend.

Location services / check in: Kids also default to having their locations turned off, but they do have the option of having that turned on. If turned on, it means that whenever they make a status update or post an image, it will show their location at the end of the post (town and state).

Private Messages are designed to be like email within Facebook. They are a direct and private message between the two people messaging back and forth. Facebook also has an app for messaging. In fact, any and all users have a specific Facebook email. This email address is usually the default address that is shown if your email is set to public on your profile page. With minors, only “friends of friends” can send a private message to minors. This could include adults. Basically if you and your child are friends on facebook, then any of your adult friends could see your child and send them a private message. If they are neither a friend of friend or an actual friend, then they cannot send a minor a private message.

What about if a minor lies about their age, can they be protected?

-No, if a child is not honest about their age when they register on Facebook, the settings designed to protect kids won’t work properly. Meaning if a minor says they are 18 or older, they won’t work at all. If they say they’re 15 when they are really 13, those protections will end sooner. It also means that you void the terms of use set up by Facebook. This could become a factor if there is ever a case where you need to report something to facebook.

The Facebook Parental Contract:

I know of a lot of parents who do “contracts” with their kids like this. It basically sets the tone for how they are being allowed to use Facebook by their parents, for example you, as the parent, will always have the password.

I’ve seen variations of this, but at the core this is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. I know of many parents who don’t have a Facebook account of their own, they simply spend that time they would use their own and log on and check on their child’s account. I know of a pair of parents who each have the iPhone app for facebook, but it’s their son’s account they have logged onto each of their phones. They both check in on it throughout the day and see what’s going on.

If you are also on Facebook:

-Monitor your actions as much as you would monitor your child’s. Your actions online matter as much as your actions do in the real world. So be sure to set the tone with your online actions the same as you would in any other situation with your kids.

-To increase both of your privacy, set your settings to friends only and not friends of friends. This will go further in limiting how many strangers can see or tag both of you

-Again Facebook has a family safety center that has a wealth of resources for parents to use. It’s written in an easy to understand fashion:

Facebook and ads:

-Facebook is also getting deeper into ads and what they call “sponsored stories”. As of December 4th, they are no longer supposed to be able to use minors in their “sponsored stories”, however I’ve seen instances where they still are. Basically these look like endorsements and they often look like you or someone has “Liked” a business or a group or a deal. It takes information based on your Facebook activity and puts you in a commercial without your permission. There is a lawsuit and possible settlement to stop this and strengthen your user controls, but again, it’s important that a person is honest about their age.

-The more traditional ads are the ones that pop up in the lower right hand side of the screen. In the account settings there is an area where you can control this version of ads. This area explains a little about how ads work on Facebook, and how they might use your photos and information. These are separate from the “sponsored” like postings.

They have a section explaining ads too:

-Facebook makes their money from Games and apps. Most of the games and apps on Facebook are pretty harmless, but there are some where you could spend real money. It’s important to monitor what games and apps are being played/installed into your child’s account. Apps and games collect your Facebook information. You can control what information they collect and at times they will also post on your behalf. You can always change these apps and game settings in your account settings. Uninstall any game that you’re uncomfortable with that takes too much personal information.