Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Assessing Facebook Changes for Minors

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Assessing Facebook Changes for Minors

Article excerpt

Facebook made news again this week with a change to its privacy settings for minors, but some experts say it probably doesn't matter.

"In my mind, it's kind of irrelevant," said Jill Brown, founder of GenerationTextOnline. "I teach kids that nothing is private."

Imagine your child's social media profile is stapled to their college application or displayed on a giant highway billboard, Brown said. Are you still OK with them posting that photo or status?

Facebook's policy change allows users under 18 to post information publicly, available to the entire Internet. The public setting is optional, though, and the website will warn minors each time before they post something publicly; the initial privacy settings of teens under 18 will automatically be set so posts are seen only by friends. That's more restrictive than the previous default setting that allowed teens to distribute their posts to friends of their friends in the network.

This may be Facebook's way of trying to regain their teenage audience which has been gravitating towards other social media outlets such as Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.

Online ground rules need to be established, experts said, such as access to usernames and passwords. In addition, core values like honesty, integrity, personal responsibility and reputation need to be drilled into both online and offline lessons, said Dr. Ilana Kustanowitz, school psychologist at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County.

Carol Huston, the mother of a 16-year-old junior at Ramsey High School, said it's up to parents to keep an eye on their kids' behavior online -- but Facebook doesn't have to make it easier for problems to occur.

"If a teenager wants to make a public statement, there are other ways besides exposing their world," she said. While Huston said she gives her son more freedom now -- and wants him to keep his profile private -- they discussed Internet safety when he was younger. …

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