Will Facebook’s new teen privacy settings keep younger users safer?

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The newly-announced Facebook privacy settings for new teen accounts may have some positives, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t effective against cyber bullying, but also keeps parents from monitoring their own children’s cyber activities, says one expert.

Facebook’s privacy settings for new teenagers joining the site will at first allow only those the teen has friended to see his or her posts. If users aged 13-17 so choose, they can elect to have their posts public, but the automatic setting is friends-only.

However, will this help keep teens safer on Facebook? Steve Woda, CEO of uKnow.com — a firm that provides social media monitoring of kids’ accounts — doesn’t think these changes will help much.

Woda spoke with Inside Facebook about the teen privacy settings:

Generally speaking, I find teenagers are not great with the privacy settings. We see time and time again, teens making mistakes with regard to such settings. And it’s difficult, right now, for a lot of parents to know if their kids are online. We constantly deal with parents trying to get a handle on this.

One problem, says Woda, is many parents don’t understand social media sites well enough to follow all of their kids’ activities. The downside to the new policy is that not only can it keep such parents away from their kids’ pages, but the internet savvy will understand how to access the teens’ pages.

All of these things are very cool in many ways but also may encourage bad behavior. Parents shouldn’t be afraid of Facebook or Twitter or similar sites, but they need to become highly engaged.

Woda shared these pointers for teens and their parents to keep everyone cyber safe:

1. Insist on transparency. “Parents are in a better position if they take control right away rather than play catch up,” says Woda. Specifically, parents should help their teens set up their accounts including choosing settings. The parents should also have all of the log-in information for their children’s accounts and set limitation and rules that include spot checks of their children’s pages.

2. Remember to block and ignore. Many kids respond almost instantly to messages, especially those that are negative or bullying. Woda suggests that children be taught to ignore such posts and block anyone who continues negative campaigns such as recruiting others to become cyber bullies. Before social media, kids would have a harder time banding together to bully. Now hundreds of kids can pile into such an activity. “It’s important not to be baited into participating,” he says.

3. Remember, it’s not just your kid. Although most kids are not cyber bullies and don’t knowingly post inapppriate content, they may be swayed by others. That’s why it’s imperative for parents to understand the workings of the social media sites their kids use and spot check their accounts. Other times, kids just don’t understand what they’re doing. Woda mentioned a recent client whose daughter was posting photos to a social networking site so that her boyfriend could see them. The daughter didn’t realize that her settings were such that the public could view them.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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