This week Facebook changed its privacy settings to allow users ages 13-17 to post publically. Now when a child posts something, there is no warning that the information is going to be seen by a wide audience. Also, the previous setting which allowed only a specific amount of content post by 13-to-17-year-olds to be searchable by the general public has been removed.

Facebook has defended its decision to make the posts of its teenage users more visible, claiming that “teenagers are experts at controlling who they share things with”.

These sentiments seemed to be echoed by Henry Jenkins when he writes that children know more about “new media environments” than their parents. However, he warns that we should never assume that children have “developed the ethical norms to cope with a complex and diverse social environment online.”

Facebook seems to ignore such warning and claim that these underage users are well versed in the “norms” of the internet and will now be able to participate with a larger audience on such matters as “civic engagement or activism” .

While it is true that many teens feel a disconnection from politics which is a “reflection of their perceptions of disempowerment”, I call shenanigans on Facebook.

Everyone knows that old-grandpa Facebook is losing users to its much cooler and hipper counterparts, Twitter and Tumblr who don’t even ask users to state their ages.

Tumblr already has more users ages 13-to-17 than Facebook. “[Tumblr] just seems more intimate and…a place of sharing.”

The executives at Facebook claim that their main motivation in making this switch is to help users share their ideas with the world, yet I wonder if many of these people have ever seen a teenager’s Facebook page. Surprise – it’s covered with more suggestive selfies and less educated discourse on the state of global affairs.

yeah, this kid is talking about the finer points regarding  government shut down right now on his facebook.

yeah, this kid is talking about the finer points of the government shut down right now on his facebook.

While teens might be “among the savviest people using social media”, they may not have the best judgment. With this change in Facebook’s policy, their writing would be more open to the public, and therefore have more far reaching consequences than they could ever imagine.

It may be the old-lady in me, but giving children boundaries is almost always a good thing. However Facebook chooses to inject some “cool” into its dying format, it might be too little, too late.

Written with StackEdit.

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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. If it was actually true that teens have sound judgement and a realistic sense of acceptable social norms (on or off the internet) then we wouldn’t need or have a growing movement to educate people about cyber bullying, and news reports about children becoming victims of internet stalkers and sexual abusers would be declining. Children and teens may be more fluent in the HOW of using technology and social media, but most have not lived enough to understand the WHY of what to do and not to do. I think everyone in the offices of Facebook understands that, but Facebook survives by making user profiles available to advertisers for data mining and targeted marketing. The entire “Don’t underestimate the intelligence of our children.” bit is a conscious facade to try and hide the selling of more information to the people the who pay the bills.

    Reply
  2. Add this to the growing list of things Facebook is doing wrong or the opposite of the norm. I’ve recently read some articles on how the public now perceive Facebook, and there’s a lot of unhappy users. I think it starts with the faulty advertising bit and like you mentioned, these constantly changing privacy policies (I remember one news article a few weeks ago that said Facebook can digitally ‘match’ photos your friends tag with your photos and others photos you may have posted). I think all of this is quite unsettling–think of the vast reach public Facebook post have–Facebook has about 1.2 billion users which is probably triple the amount Twitter has. Combine that with teenagers who are willing to ‘share it all’ online and you have a recipe for disaster. Reaching a large audience is fine, but you must have a reason or a message that has meaning–not just where you’ll be on Friday night.

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    • another issue is safety. I wanted to get into the whole idea of criminals trolling facebook looking for information on when people take vacation to where people park their cars – kids and even adults are a little too willing to hand this information out.

      Reply
  3. Does our opinion or attitude about Facebook change if we stop looking at it as a networking service and begin to look at it as a means of generating revenue?

    Reply
    • Mike,

      In some ways, I think it certainly does. The problem is, the majority of Facebook users, I think, a) do not know the first thing about Facebook’s economic inter workings and b) simply do not care/or claim they do not have the time to sort through all Facebook policies and procedures (“All I know is that.. it’s free!). I think the ties Facebook creates (at least on a large scale, outside families creating profiles to connect with other family members) are so weak that at least for me, I can’t consider it my main social networking site because I feel so disconnected to it, and I think others are in the same boat I am in.

      Reply
      • “b) simply do not care/or claim they do not have the time to sort through all Facebook policies and procedures (“All I know is that.. it’s free!)”

        Am I a cynic to think that its exactly the way the Facebook team likes it?

    • yeah, this was a whole different issue I wanted to get into here. Many people also feel that they changed the policy to allow advertisers access to more information regarding more users. It’s become more of a money making machine than a way to help people connect and this is what is dragging it down

      Reply
  4. The problem with Facebook’s response is they confusing the idea of technical ability with critical awareness. Teens may know that certain buttons do certain things, having grown up with the internet, but their worldview is almost always parochial and limited. That’s not a criticism of teenagers, it’s just a matter admitting they’re rather self-absorbed. It’s unsettling to combine the idea of information teens post online with the eagerness of Facebook to seek out, store, and monopolize on the information.

    Reply

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participatory culture, short post, social media

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