by Jenny Evans
Facebook isn’t strictly a photo sharing site, but it’s increasingly being used as one – especially by teens.
In almost any group of tweens or teens, someone is likely to have a camera phone. They can quickly snap a picture, upload it directly to Facebook from their phone, and it is instantly disseminated through their entire network of friends. This can be a convenient way to relay messages, but it can also be dangerous if your child isn’t aware of who can see their pictures (and the captions they tack on them.)
The four Privacy Settings for photos on Facebook are:
- Only friends
- Friends of friends
If your child is on Facebook, don’t assume that the Facebook Powers That Be are protecting your child’s photos – they aren’t. The default setting for all photos is “Everyone,” which means that unless your child manually changes the Privacy Settings, every picture they upload is instantly available to anyone in the world with a Facebook account.
Changing the Privacy Setting to “Friends of Friends” is probably just as dangerous, since pictures essentially go out into the Facebook void without you knowing who is actually accessing them.
You may think it’s safe to select “Only Friends” for viewing uploaded photos, but hold that thought for a moment until you ask your child to show you who their Facebook Friends are. If you have a KidSafe Basic account, you can also access this information from with the Contacts section of your KidSafe Parent Dashboard.
For some teens, having as many friends as possible is a status symbol. They may have over a thousand “Friends” on Facebook, some of whom are really only distant acquaintances or complete strangers that they “met” online. In fact, almost 70% of teens admit to talking to strangers online.
If this is the case with your child, then selecting “Only Friends” as the photo security setting isn’t enough. Talk to them about restricting their Facebook Friends to only people they know personally, and sit with your children to them how to use the “Customize” security photo setting on Facebook.
When you select the “Customize” Privacy Setting, you can identify by name the people you want to share a given picture or album with. You can also help them sort their Facebook friends into different “friend lists” (i.e: real-life friends, school acquaintances, work buddies, family, and so on.) The next time they upload a photo, they can select “Customize” and simply type in the target group’s friend list name. That way, pictures are only seen by those who they want to see them, not every single one of their Facebook contacts.
It’s also important to know that uploading photos to Facebook is done through an application. Unless you change the application security settings, Facebook allows applications to access users’ personal information. Before uploading any photos, check the application security settings by selecting “account,” “privacy,” then “applications.”
Most teens who use Facebook upload new photo albums to their accounts regularly, but don’t fully understand how to use the photo Privacy Settings available to them. As the parent, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your kids understand the security controls at their disposal and and that they use them appropriately with every picture they share on Facebook.Jenny Evans is a mother of three and a freelance writer specializing in early childhood, parenting, and family issues.