Well, unlike what the title might otherwise suggest, I don't have kids myself. Though, by extension, I certainly have kids I jealously protect when nieces, nephews and god-children come into the mix. Especially, into the social media mix.
In a classroom session I facilitated a few weeks back on the topic of Facebook, we had the opportunity to talk a bit about privacy settings. From an adult/avid social median's perspective, I admit having the throttles opened up a fair bit. (As far as social media goes, I guess you'd pretty much find me standing on any street corner.) But, when it comes to minors, I wouldn't recommend the same settings.
Facebook's policy is to not allow minors under the age of 13. Good idea. In addition, you can also read a bit about Facebook's safety policies here: http://www.facebook.com/safety/ Included on their safety page is a list of governmental and non-governmental web sites that help with more safety tips. For convenience, I reproduced that list below:
- Ncmec.org (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
In addition to the excellent resources above from Facebook's Safety page, I included some thoughts below about the minimum privacy settings I'd feel comfortable with for minors.
Depending upon your comfort zone, you might consider going more restrictive with some of these settings. What I show below assumes a balancing act I see between protecting kids' privacy while still maintaining the spirit of social-ness on social networks. In any case, I always counsel that parents should be involved in social networks themselves. Not only because they are great tools, but to also enable you to be "hip" enough to keep a wary eye out for your child's safety, even as they learn new social skills in the 21st century.
How Do I Find Privacy Settings on Facebook?
You can get to the privacy settings for your account (or that of your child's account) by selecting Settings and then Privacy Settings from the top-right side of the menu bar.
After making that selection, the Privacy Settings page will appear.
Facebook Privacy Settings For My Nephews and Nieces
Below, I'll show screen shots for each of the settings I'd recommend my siblings consider for their kids (my nieces and nephews). Again, these are minimum settings. You should consider your comfort zone and whether or not you feel a more restrictive setting is better. The challenge will obviously be balancing the need for locking down your child's privacy settings with the spirit (and learning benefits) of the social aspects of social networking.
Your help requested: For my friends and readers who are dealing with this topic today, please add to the comments below about any modifications you'd recommend about settings for your child's profile. Your thoughts will help refine my own thinking on this, while also helping others who may be visiting this topic for the first time. If we get enough comments, I'll dedicate another blog post to summarize them all.
Profile settings: BasicYou can find the screen below by selecting the Profile option from the screen shown above.
This setting controls who sees information on your child's profile page. I've pretty much recommended that these all be limited to the "Only Friends" selection.
Profile settings: Contact InformationClicking the Contact Information tab under the Privacy settings page, you'll see options for setting privacy levels on various modes of contact. Notice my preference that if someone's going to call a child's phone, that the number be given at arm's length. Hence, my option is to select "no one" for the online social networking world. (Thought: Even if you figure that you've already approved of whom your child has friended on Facebook, you have no control over who else may be viewing the friend's computer. So, better to lock these down online.)
You can use the settings here to control who on Facebook can find your child's Facebook page when they (the person doing the searching) uses Facebook's search feature. Again, you can always follow a more restrictive setting. But my minimum suggestions would be:
News Feed and WallThis part of the Privacy settings pages controls what others see (i.e., the friends to whom your child connects on Facebook) whenever your child performs certain activities on her/his own Facebook profile. These activities include: your child updating her profile, writing on her wall, commenting on a friend's posts, and so on. By enabling these selections, friends with whom you child connects will get updates on their news feed that your child has performed these activities.
As sinister as that last paragraph may sound, it's also part and parcel to the social nature of sites like Facebook. I'd welcome your thoughts here, but my rationale for enabling these is that if we're comfortable with the previous settings (about settings for connecting with only direct friends), then I'm generally okay with allowing those direct friends to see the activities below. Otherwise, locking these down too tightly sort of reverses the social aspect of social networks.
As an adult, I'm not too comfortable, as it is, with applications I subscribe to pulling information about me and my friends through the API. (That's an acronym for Application Program Interface. It's a piece of code that sort of acts as a translator between Facebook and other third-party applications.)
I'm very selective as it is about which applications I choose to participate in. Again, I'd welcome your thoughts here, but from my perspective, I'd rather not give blanket permission to third-party applications with information about my child (er, your child).
Hence, under the Settings tab of the Privacy / Applications settings window, you might consider selecting the option that says, "Do not share any information about me through the Facebook API" for your child's profile.
It's a challenging thing. I don't envy the difficulty you have as a parent in balancing the benefits (of which there are many) of social networking literacy for your child against the dangers (of which there are also many) therein. Though, one thing is sure, you care about your kids, I care about my nephews, nieces and godchildren. And the fact that you took time to read this shows that your aware about the balance that needs to be made.
And that's a great start. Again, if you have thoughts about which Privacy settings to enable/disable for your child's profile, please add them to the comments below. Your thoughts will help refine our collective wisdom. (And that's the name of the game, isn't it?)