Facebook Security For Parents. Part 1-Profile Accessibility

Part one in a two part guide on Facebook parenting strategies.

Social-media (the devices by which we interact online) and social-networks (the network of people connected by Social Media) are redefining parenting in the 21st Century.

Having been involved with Educational Technology for 14 years, I have a unique perspective about social-media. On the whole, I am a fan, and use social-media as a teaching device whenever possible. As a parent, I have concerns.  I do not believe that our children are adequately prepared to deal with all the technology they have at their disposal. 

My vision is to empower teens and their parents with the necessary tools to navigate this technology safely and effectively, and harness its power to enhance life.

Let me begin with one of the primary concerns of all parents - Facebook. During the past few years, I have conducted many surveys of my students' technology habits. The data regarding Facebook in particular were very enlightening.

     When I first began teaching the proper use of Facebook, most of my students assured me that their Facebook profiles are secure.   Using one of my surveys, 64% of my students reported that they were sure that their profiles were closed to public viewing; the remaining were, to varying degrees unsure. 

After teaching my students how to lock down their profiles, I discovered more than  85% of my students’ profiles were viewable to the public.  Many of these profiles contained phone numbers, pictures and addresses. Consequently, even when a student believes he/she has been diligent about profile security, he/she can be endangered by less -scrupulous friends.  I often see pictures of teens on Facebook with identifying school logos and store or street-names in the background.  This, coupled with lax profile security, can be telling information for predators and bullies.

Third-Party Software Woes
     What comes next shocked my students: Whenever one plays any Facebook game,  takes a poll, or even passes along peace plants, (all third-party software) profile access has been granted to the author of that program.  Third party software are programs that use Facebook, but are independent companies. Farmville, Bejwelled Blitz and Mob Wars are all examples of popluar third-party software.

Third-party software is a serious concern when dealing with Facebook, and my advice would be not to use any third-party software and advise your child to do the same.  At the very least, be aware of the risks inherent with third party software and have your child ask permission before allowing access to it. In Facebook’s exact words:

     “Remember that these games, applications and websites are created and maintained by other businesses and developers who are not part of Facebook, so you should always make sure to read their terms of service and privacy policies.”

Pictures on Facebook
     What is  more distressing is that, in the “Facebook Terms of Service,” there is language that  indicates that anything that is uploaded on Facebook can be used in any fashion as long as the content is viewable to others:

"For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it."

     More clearly stated, any picture or video that is made available for others to see can be legally used by Facebook for as long as that piece of media is viewable to others.

     There are several reports where unsuspecting Facebook members have seen their pictures used in ads.  It is completely legal and something every Facebook user must be aware of when posting pictures. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Krouskoff February 29, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Ms. Cronk provides valuable insight to the some of the digital challenges parents must address with their 21st century learners (we are, after all, eleven years into the 21st century!). In the nineties I ran numerous internet safety workshops for parents and schools, and at the time the challenges were with AOL and the focus was predators and viruses on shared computers compared to today's very real issues of bulllying and identity risks. In the Clarkstown Central School District, our elementary school library media specialists use a Schoology as a "private" Facebook as part of the district's strategy to promote digital literacy. Many teachers in grades 6-12 use our private Google Apps domains to take advantage of collaborative learning experiences. In doing so, they often model best practices, a valuable component for the students they serve. These same tools, after all, are available to the general public (including the students) without the safety net offered in our private network. A strong thank you to Ms. Cronk, whose work I have read and presentations I have attended. It's great to see an expert in the field sharing her expertise with the rest of us, and one would need to have his head buried in the sand to ignore the very dual nature of the Internet. As with any powerful scientific advance, the risks are often as real as the benefits, and the challenge is to negate such risks while fully exploiting the benefits.
Jennifer Cronk February 29, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Thank you for your thoughtful comment John. I love the line "As with any powerful scientific advance, the risks are often as real as the benefits, and the challenge is to negate such risks while fully exploiting the benefits." It sums it up in a nutshell.


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