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WTF Facebook?! Don't You Care About Teens?

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Apparently not!

Teenage girl using laptop

Ronda Kaysen: Mark Zuckerberg clearly doesn't have any teenagers. If he did, the 25-year-old wunderkind wouldn't have rejiggered the Facebook privacy settings to expose every adolescent to public humiliation.

In a December 1 open letter, Zuckerberg claimed the new settings on his goliath social networking site would make "the world more open and connected" and give Facebook users "the tools you need to share and control your information."

That's nice Mark, but as we all now know, controlling our privacy in this newest incarnation of Facebook actually means having a lot less of it. I can no longer prevent other people from tagging me in embarrassing photos they post. Also, any Tom, Dick or Harry can see what networks and groups I belong to and what fan pages I join. Although Zuckerberg backtracked on the original change that made my friend list available to the world, it's still available to all my current friends. These are hardly changes that give me more control over my privacy.

Which brings me to teenagers. As we already well know, teens don't have the best track record on the social networking front. As a group, they're not the most discerning bunch when it comes to protecting their dignity and privacy. (Sexting comes to mind as a good example of this.) The new settings leave teens open unwanted humiliation from tagged photos that they can't block even if they want to, public outing for the online groups they join and the option for a potential predator to prowl through friend lists.

One scenario that particularly worries me is the gay teen who joins an online gay pride group, only to find that his grandmother, pastor, and potential employer can now Google his name and discover this without his permission. Another worry: the online predator who manages to 'friend' one teen in a group and now has unfettered access to all of her friends and network. And then, of course, there's the issue of the embarrassing pictures. Now, a teen can't even keep himself from being tagged in a photo that someone else posts without his permission. And that picture is online forever, long after the teen is no longer a teen.

Sure, we can tell our kids to get off Facebook. But that's not terribly practical. And it's not very effective anyway. Unless you contact the company directly and ask them to delete all your personal information, simply deactivating your account doesn't do anything. It still leaves it open to anyone who wants to see what was there before. And as our kids get older, everything they penned in high school will be fair game for any college admissions officer or employer to see.

For their part, Facebook says they've made adjustments. Spokesman Andrew Noyes tells momlogic "As part of our initiative to give users control over the information they post on Facebook, we instituted special protections for minors. To begin with, Facebook is limiting the visibility of content created by users under age 18. If a minor seeks to share information with 'Everyone,' the widest circle of people who will actually be able see that content are his or her 'Friends,' 'Friends of Friends' and members of school or work networks he or she has joined. Furthermore, minors are opted out of public search by default."

Whether this is the end of the security "improvements" to Facebook is anyone's guess. After all, Zuckerberg retroactively changed the rules on us. Who's to say he won't do it again? All I can say is, good luck protecting your kid's privacy.



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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Malice December 22, 2009, 1:45 PM

Just don’t make a facebook. If people upload pictures of you- take it with your friends/people not facebook. I tell people not to tag me or upload pictures of my kid.(and they don’t)

Scott December 22, 2009, 4:23 PM

Hey Ronda,

While facebook did make some changes, I think that there are some ways that you can still control who gets to see your content.

I’m not sure that you have ever been able to prevent some tagging you in a photo, but you can still untag pictures if someone does tag you.

You can control what people who aren’t your friends see in you search profile, and deny them access to your friend list. (I know, you cannot deny your friends from seeing your friends list now)

As for your scenario with the gay teen, you can create a friends “group” on facebook and give that group fewer privileges when it comes to viewing your profile. You can create this group by going to the friends page, and change what they can view in the privacy settings section.

For instance, my restricted group is called “Limited Profile” and those persons cannot see my status updates, posts from friends, pictures, or relationship status. I use this mostly for extended family and teachers or professionals whom happen to find my facebook.

Hope this helps.

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My Space December 23, 2009, 12:18 PM

That’s why myspace is much better and it also has music.

Rita December 23, 2009, 3:53 PM

Yeah, I used to be able to control what was posted on my wall. I really didn’t want people to know who I added as a friend, who posted to my wall, so on and so forth. Now I can’t even hide that

Kelly December 23, 2009, 10:17 PM

Maek Zuckerberg has always been a sleazebag. I never saw an interview with him that he came across as likeable.
He stole the idea (hence why he settled out of court for a undisclosed sum) from three Havard classmates who hired him to work on their website for Havard and other Ivy School students. Never did the work and quit Harvard three months later with the Facebook idea he stole.
he’s all about the money and not integrity.

gvhbnjmk December 28, 2009, 7:54 PM

If you don’t like it, then delete your account. not that big of a deal.

Bee bee January 28, 2010, 8:01 PM

Hey, here is an idea for all you silly tools. It’s called PERSONAL responsibility. Yeah, I know it’s hard to comprehend sometimes, but those “children and teenagers” have parents and those parents should be doing their job. That’s not Facebook’s fault. Do you know how many people who aren’t even close to old enough have a face book? Who’s fault is that? That’s right, the parent. Why doesn’t everyone get a clue and stop blaming other people for your inability to control what you share online or your inability to control your damn kids. Shesh


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