Facebook rules for teens

Here are some guidelines for parents of teens asking to be on Facebook. Similar guidelines apply to other social networking sites. Not all suggestions are appropriate for all families, but they can be a starting point for discussing Facebook with your children.

UPDATE: New concerns about Facebook

For some time I tried to provide updates about new privacy concerns on Facebook, but their frequent reoccurrance has become a concern in its own right. Facebook by design seems to be constantly changing. Keeping up with the constantly changing privacy issues is as big a problem as any single privacy issue. The rest of the web is better at keeping up on Facebook privacy issues than I am. Here are just a few recent issues:

The bottom line is that Facebook is not free - you and your information are being sold. All Facebook users should be aware that everything they do online may become public and may be used for advertising purposes.

If you are interested in keeping up with these developments, a useful resource is InsideFacebook.com, an independent organization that reports on new Facebook developments.

1. General comments

Facebook has a wide range of privacy settings available, and in general you want all the privacy you can get. Most of the horror stories about social networking involve kids making information public and/or making contact with strangers. The rules below are generally designed to avoid all contact with strangers. The key concept is to use Facebook only to interact with real personal friends.

I don't believe any part of the internet can be made safe enough to allow teens, particularly young teens, to browse around unsupervised. The rules below assume you are a parent who will take an active interest in monitoring your teen's online behavior. I strongly suggest that teens (and adults!) should always use some type of internet filtering, and that the computer they use to access the internet should be in a public place, not in their bedroom.

Lest you think this is paranoid, consider the following statement from the official Facebook terms:

We recommend that minors over the age of 13 ask their parents for permission before sending any information about themselves to anyone over the Internet.

Note that children under 13 are forbidden from using Facebook entirely by Facebook rules.

Facebook has been making rapid and radical changes over the past year, some of them involving pricavy controls and some of them quite controversial. It can be difficult to know exactly how public your information is, so you want to assume the worst and limit the amount of personal information posted.

Although you can delete your Facebook account, widespread information sharing means that some of your information may have been shared with other people and cannot be retrieved.

2. Privacy settings

3. Friends

4. Networks and Groups

5. Places you go

6. Features you don't use

7. Other

(C) Bill Lovegrove, 2007-2013. All rights reserved.