Facebook imageFacebook changed its privacy policy for teens this week, despite work from advocacy groups and media experts against the change. On Wednesday October 16th teen privacy settings were adjusted to allow teens to share status updates and photos publicly. The change literally allows the public a window into a teen’s thoughts and photos on Facebook for the first time.

Fortunately, teens can control this by opting out of public sharing. The default setting at this point for teens when joining Facebook will not automatically allow for public sharing. Teens can opt-in after clicking through a pop-up notice. This step could of course change.

Visit the privacy setting page on Facebook with your teen.

In my opinion this is not in the best interest of our children. As we evolve and adapt to using social tools, we’re all still getting our footing. So are our teens as they begin to create a digital footprint of thoughts and photos online. Further, concerns about this shift include public access to teen sharing that will likely be data-mined and scoured by advertisers and companies hoping to target teens with goods and services.

Read this blog post from pediatrician and social media expert, Dr Megan Moreno, on the new changes for teens. Information and links on how to talk to teens about changes along with resources for learning more are included. A recent Q&A she completed online about parents and teens is linked. She says it best when she says:

This situation presents an enormous opportunity for parents to have conversations with their teens about privacy settings online.  For parents who have already had these conversations in the past, it’s time to sit down and discuss Facebook’s decision, review your family’s rules about online safety, and review your teen’s current privacy settings on Facebook – both their overall  “privacy settings” and the “audience” for their posts.

Groups around the nation are working to protect teens but thus far Facebook seems to continue to liberate privacy settings gradually. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joined 26 other groups 1 month prior to this change to recommend FTC regulation involvement to protect teens from Facebook’s new advertising and marketing policies. The Pew Research Center found out in 2012 that four out of five (81%) parents say ” they are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior.”

At this point parents have to be reassured that creating their own online presence, alongside their children, is an essential task in parenting today. We can’t forget that each and every time a parent checks in with their teen about use of online tools, it’s time well spent. Again and again.