Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Sharing and Privacy Features on Facebook: What Tween Parents Need To Know

This week Facebook rolled out some new features that affect the privacy of posts and can display the location of the user. Most parents, myself included, would be concerned if their tween's location was broadcast, so here's what tween parents need to know:
  • Now when you update your Wall, you can tag others who are with you or related to the post. You'll see the icon as a little person with a plus sign in the lower left corner of the status field. Earlier this year Facebook beefed up its photo tagging feature; this seems to be the next step. Facebook wants to encourage users to interact directly with each another, and when your tween is tagged by a friend in a post, she'll get a note letting her know. This sharing feature has the potential to deepen the fissures in "Girl World" (in reference to Rosalind Wiseman's excellent work on this subject) in that it will make all the more public who's hanging out with whom. As parents, we need to monitor this and keep an eye out for any shunning, exclusion, cyberbullying issues it may exacerbate.
  • When you update your status you can now also add a location to your status. If your tween uses Facebook via a smartphone, this means that anyone who can view her page can see where she is in real time. This has huge safety implications, so be sure to discuss it with your tween. This feature can be turned off; you'll see an icon that looks like a map marker below the status field - right next to the tagging icon mentioned above.
  • You can also now determine who can view each status update by clicking on a Friends icon in the lower right corner of the status update field. This enables you to control the privacy settings of each individual post. Before it was much more difficult to send send different messages to different Friends on Facebook, but this feature will make it easier. This is a terrific feature if you want to send messages only to Family members or to certain groups of Friends (such as her soccer team), and it will require you to assign each Friend into a category. So each time you send a post, you can determine which group can see it. One note: the label "Everyone" is now called "Public"and still means that anyone can see those posts.)
Don't forget: Facebook's stated policy is that you must be 13 years old to have a profile, but the reality is that many tweens are active on it nonetheless. In case you missed them, here are our tips for keeping your tween safe online. We encourage you to review these three new features with your tween and discuss your family's policy for using or not using them. Now is also an excellent time to check the Privacy settings you have on your Facebook account as they are ever-changing.

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