Up to now, viewability of kids’ Facebook
accounts was set by default to “Friends of Friends”; now, those aged 13-17 start out with their audience set to “Friends” by default. However, they can also make their posts public, and they can turn on “Follow” to let their posts show up in the Newsfeeds of people who aren’t necessarily their friends.
Basically, Facebook wants to let the youngsters have a louder voice on the social network, and by “louder voice” we presume that to mean “greater opportunity for generating ad dollars”. But before the Internet starts screaming about this latest loosening of Facebook privacy
for kids, there are some important points to consider here.
First, Facebook is allowed to do this. It’s a free service that makes money on ads, so any activities can (and will) be commoditized. That’s just business. Second, it’s important to note that Facebook appears to understand what’s at stake here.
For instance, although teens are able to go public now, their accounts are set by default to be more private. Chances are, most kids will leave the privacy settings alone, so it’s likely that these changes will actually protect more youngsters’ privacy than before. Further, Facebook is adding more inline reminders so that before they post something, kids are reminded that everyone can see what they’re posting. (Yes, teenagers will just click through that noise without reading it. Yes, many will ignore it no matter what. Yes, the inline reminders should still be there.)
Boiled down, these changes mean that by default, kids are less exposed on Facebook, but they also have the ability to become more public. Being more public can, of course, be a problem, from kids posting things that they’ll never be able to take back that could follow them for years to being exposed to strangers online and all that entails, but the solution is stronger oversight from parents and better communication between parents and children. (Even though that’s easier said than done.)