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Tips For Parents: Facebook Privacy For Teens

Facebook Privacy TeensWhat is the most scary thing for parents of teens? Lately, it seems to be their kids using social media and other online platforms to network. Online social platforms, including Facebook, are now one of the key ways teens socialize with their friends. Beyond protecting privacy, there is also the issue of teens over-sharing information online that they later regret.


My first tip for parents regarding their kids’ online social networking habits is to first educate themselves and THEN educate their kids. Regular dialogues with your kids about online safety is an important step in keeping them safe. The next step is set up family rules and communication guidelines. In our family, we have rules about privacy settings in each of the social networking applications. Our rules also include positive reinforcement: to earn their freedom to use a new platform, they need to show their responsibility by coming to us first to discuss privacy and safety.


In conversations with my three boys about their use of social networks, I want them to feel safe coming to me with questions and issues. If they feel threatened or lectured to, the conversation quickly ends. So I explain to my sons that there is no “real” privacy online and anything they share should be appropriate for a future employer to see it and STILL give them a job! At the same time, I tell them that mistakes happen and it is best to talk about them and develop a strategy so the mistake is not repeated. I even share real life horror stories to show them what HAS already happened to some teens and stress the importance of understanding the privacy settings of all online networks. We also spend time going over the settings in each of the networks they use to set up appropriate privacy controls.


Facebook is one of the main platforms I use to network with friends and family online so I supported my kids to use it as well to network with their friends after they turned 13. When I received a recent press email with some details about Facebook privacy settings I was thrilled because it was something I was looking into to help educate my kids. Here are some privacy setting and graph search tips from Facebook to help start the conversation with your kids!


Tips for Helping Set Up Your Teen’s Facebook Account from FACEBOOK:

1. It may sound obvious, but help your teen be selective with profile information. This includes photos—cute is okay, provocative is a no-no. You can also navigate to “update info” in the blue menu bar with your name and edit basic info, contact information, work and education, and interests, making sure the privacy setting is always “Friends” and not “Public.” It may sound obvious, but no contact info (email addresses, phone numbers, etc.).
2. In this same vein…you can help adjust his or her privacy settings. Click on the little wheel next to the “Home” button; from the dropdown menu, hit “Privacy Settings.” Here you can change the default privacy settings for when your teen posts photos and updates, and control whether his/her account pops up when people do public searches. Note: DON’T forget Timeline and Tagging privacy settings—always make sure tags are restricted to “Friends” so that photos other people post of your teen are only seen by his/her friends.
Facebook Privacy settings
**Note – The image above is a screen shot from my Facebook account as visual example..
3. Have your teen set up login approvals and notifications (via the Security Settings page), both extra security features:

o   With login notifications, Facebook sends you an alert each time someone logs into your account from a new place.

o   Login approvals are like login notifications, but with an extra step; if you turn on login approvals, you’ll be asked to enter a special login code each time you try to access your Facebook account from a new computer or mobile phone. After you log in, you’ll have the option to give that device a name and save it to your account.

 o   You won’t have to enter a code when you log into any of these recognized devices. The benefit here is so that Facebook can be sure it’s you logging in from an unrecognized device, and not an impostor you; you’ll also receive an email confirming you logged in from an unrecognized device so in the instance you can always be sure you’ll know when and from where you’ve logged in.



And, when all is said and done, the most important way to keep your teen safe online is by starting a conversation. After all, technical controls don’t always solve every problem. You don’t need to be a social media expert to ask questions and begin an ongoing dialog. Have these conversations about safety and technology early and often, in the same way you talk to your teens about being safe at school, in the car, etc.



One way to begin this conversation is to ask your teen why social media is important to him or her. You might also ask him or her to show you how to set up your own Facebook Timeline, so you can see what it’s all about. Discuss what’s appropriate information to share online—and what isn’t. Ask them about privacy settings, and suggest that you go over them together regularly.



Facebook Graph Search: A safe, secure way to discover new things online

Teach your teens how to use Facebook Graph Search (the basics):

1.       Click on the search bar at the top of any Facebook page

2.       Begin typing your search (ex: Friends who live in Walnut Creek and like soccer)

3.       As you type, a list of search suggestions will appear below the search bar

4.       Choose one of the suggested options or finish typing and hit Enter

5.       Click “Refine This Search” to narrow your results by things like location or date



Types of things your teens can search for using Graph Search:

You can search across people, Pages, friends, photos and other content shared with you on Facebook, such as their education, hometown, current city, interests, as well as places, restaurants, books, movies, games and music they like



You can explore Graph Search in a variety of ways, like putting together keywords for things that are of interest. Some examples of things you can search include:

o   My friends who live in my city

o   Ski resorts visited by my friends

o   Restaurants nearby that are liked by my friends

o   Photos of my family members



You can also combine phrases together, or add things like locations, timeframes, likes and interests to get more specific; for example:

o   Movies liked by people who like my favorite movies

o   Photos of my friends in June 2011



Graph Search privacy

Keep in mind Facebook has a feature called secure browsing, which is turned on by default (https). This feature makes it harder for anyone else to access your Facebook information without your permission.



To double-check you have secure browsing turned on, go to your Security Settings; click the Secure Browsing section; make sure the box provided is checked:

o   When you have secure browsing turned on, the address bar in your browser should begin with “https://”



Who can look for posts in Graph Search?

o   The people you’ve shared your posts with can see them in their Graph Search results

o   For example, posts shared as Public can be seen by anyone (including people not on Facebook) and can show up in anyone’s Graph Search results.

·         You can adjust what others can see on your Timeline and who can see the things you share, and you can choose who can search for you using your email address or phone number. You can also limit the audience of past posts and make it so that only your friends can see these photos or status updates you’ve previously posted.

·         A great resource is the privacy shortcuts, which are accessible from the lock icon and offer common privacy tools – like Activity Log which lets you review who can see or find things you’ve posted or have been tagged in.



How does it work for minors?

o   Like adults, minors can appear in search results, but Facebook protects sensitive information about them (contact info, school, Birthday) from appearing in search to a public audience.




How does your family handle setting up privacy settings on online networks? Do you have regular family conversations about privacy with your kids?




Disclosure: This is a press post.




And For Privacy Lesson #1, LOG OFF of your email account

I just saw an interesting article in the New York Times called "A Company Computer and Questions About Email Privacy". The article is about a court case involving Scott Sidel and Structured Settlement investments. On one side is Scott Sidell who left the company and "found out that his former employer was reading his personal Yahoo e-mail messages, after he had left the company", …including e-mail messages that he had sent to his lawyers discussing his strategy
for winning an arbitration claim over his lost job
." On the other side is Structured Settlement investments who say Mr. Sidell had returned to the office after he was fired and had begun  using another employee’s computer

The discussion was around that while using that other person’s computer (at the office), he must not of logged off of his email account. I am not going to debate the he-said, he said – but I will say that this is a great lesson learned for all: LOG OFF OF YOUR DARN EMAIL ACCOUNT IF YOU ARE NOT USING YOUR OWN COMPUTER!  Many email programs have special functions that allow you to stay "logged on" for a short time, without having to enter your own ID/password. This works great when you are using your own personal computer – that you no one else is using… But, if you EVER log on to a public or another person’s computer to check your email – it is important to log off afterwards. The same goes for logging onto any other website where a user id/password is needed –  what is also needed is to "log off" afterwards.

Even if you log off, your account can be compromised so it is important to be careful with what information you send via email. So the final lessons learned is to log off of online accounts after using them and save some information for a phone call!

Related links: has an interesting post about "electronic tripwire" in your email account to keep you aware of email break-ins

Both Yahoo and Google have info that discuss their security. Yahoo also has a Security Center, while Google has the Privacy & Security Help Center

Any others to add?


Virtual “Leave Me Alone!”

Tonight, when I finally sat down after an insane day with my boys for quiet time with my computer, I got this pop-up with some marketing spam message from someone that tried to Skype me.

The nerve.

I can only blame myself for not setting the privacy options. And that is usually the first thing I do, but I must of forgot when setting up Skype. I logged on immediately to change my status to do not disturb, which means I will not be notified of any messages. Then I visited the Skype knowledge base to find out how I can set the privacy options:

“If you are getting chat messages or calls that
you consider to be spam or abusive we suggest you use Skype’s built in
privacy settings to filter out any unwanted communications..

Select Tools -> Options -> Privacy.”

I set my privacy options to only allow chats and calls from people I have shared my details with.  Spammers, sorry you will not be on that list.


Securing A Wireless Network: Mossberg’s Mailbox

I listed Walter S. Mossberg, a technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal under the "Chat with the Professionals" column because I find his articles very helpful.

Here is the link to an article about securing a wireless network.  He mentions that all wireless home networks should have an encryption key (a password). I also think this is important. Instructions can be found in the instruction manual of the home wireless router.