Does the idea of your kids on Facebook freak you out?
We get it.
We like to think Facebook is a little freaked out about it as well, because they’ve designed a lot of safeguards into the platform to allow you a healthy degree of control over what’s shared online both publicly and privately.
When combined with other common-sense privacy measures, we’re certain you’ll be able to sleep better at night. Let’s see what’s behind the Facebook privacy curtain and get you sorted out.
The Only Rule – Rule No. 1
Know your children, their limits, and your limits. We can’t stress this enough. You can read all sorts of advice online about what is okay for kids, and unless you wrote it, the advice will be coming from people who don’t know your kids (and the environment they live in,) whatsoever.
This rule, though, applies to everyone. Base all other rules on this one.
The first question you need to ask when setting your guidelines for Rule No. 1 is this: should your kids be on Facebook at all?
If your answer is “yes,” the below list offers a few things you’ll want to address from the get-go. While hardly exhaustive (and because Facebook’s platform and its privacy terms are always changing), you’ll want to go to Facebook’s Privacy page to learn more about how to adjust the settings to each of the below items.
- Public Search: This setting determines whether someone can search for your child by name in Facebook’s search window.
- Limit Posts to Just Friends: If your child is on Facebook, the most restrictive setting is to have their posts go to only friends. “Friends of friends,” (which many people choose as their setting) expands exposure dramatically.
- Your own Settings: As a parent, you’ll want to be sure your settings are as restrictive as you believe they should be. For example, many parents post pictures of their children on their profiles and do so publicly without being aware they’re doing so. Likewise, Facebook’s rules on the profile picture and cover banner are ALWAYS public. If you wish to exclude photos of your children from appearing online, then you’ll also want to avoid posting their pictures in these areas.
- Location Availability: Many parents would agree that posts their children make shouldn’t have geo-location information that would allow people to see where the posts originated from – down to the exact street location.
- Tagging: Users of Facebook often tag friends and family in pictures so those people become aware a photo of them has been uploaded. It is possible to require the user's approval for all tagging, as well as reject tagging altogether.
- Who Can See My Stuff? This setting allows you to see what different people see about your child on their Facebook profile. To see what the most restrictive setting would look like, you’d want to explore what this setting looks like as public, and delete or hide information accordingly.
- Phone Settings: Using Facebook on a phone is a whole other can of worms, particularly since many people use Facebook without ever logging out. So, if a phone were to be lost, borrowed or stolen, access by whomever has the phone is possible.
- Logging Out: Countless people forget to logout of Facebook in libraries, cafes, on other people’s phones. To ensure protection, remain vigilant that your kids know they should always be logging out. Even on home computers.
- Pictures and Videos: Work with your kids on what they should and should not be posting, no matter their privacy settings.
10. Third Party Apps: Just like using a phone to access Facebook, third party apps like Instagram open up another privacy hole you need to be aware of. Limit or control third party apps as you see appropriate.
You’re correct to be concerned about privacy online – this goes for both you, and your children.
You also should remain aware of your children’s interactions with their peers online, as cyber bullying is a destructive force that carries with it tremendous momentum once it starts online. If you want to keep your kids clear of that entirely, revisit Rule No. 1.