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Teenagers, Facebook and Internet Use

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 31 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Facebook Facebook Wall Facebook Privacy

If you’ve got a teenager, the chances are they’ll already be on Facebook, or clamouring to be on it as soon as they can. But whilst social networking can be a nice way to keep in touch with people, it can also have its problems. So should you be monitoring your teenagers use of Facebook and the Internet and how can you ensure they use it safely?

Social networking has become a major fixture of many people’s lives, with Facebook one of the most widely used social networking websites. It’s a way to keep in touch with friends, family and acquaintances, share updates of what you’re up to, share photos and videos, and maybe indulge in the odd game or two. But whilst it may seem fairly innocuous, sadly there can be a darker side too.

Problems With Facebook

Some of the main problems involved with teenagers using Facebook centre around cyberbullying and privacy.

Sadly, cyberbullying, or online bullying, does occur and social networking services like Facebook are a prime location for it. The very nature of Facebook, which encourages people to build up lists of friends, can result in teens feeling left out if they don’t have certain people on their friends list. It also results in those that are all online friends ganging up against those that they’re not friendly with (and, in some cases, those they fall out of friends with).

Although it’s nice to be able to share photos and videos online through Facebook, there’s a tendency for teens to record everything they do online. As well as updates on their Facebook walls, this includes regularly posting up photos and videos of what they get up to with their friends. Some of it is perfectly harmless, and a mere record of their activities, but it can be used in a more harmful way, against other teens and as part of bullying.

The other major issue with Facebook is that of privacy. The layout and categories of Facebook profiles allow teens to enter lots of personal information about themselves, from their date of birth and where they were born, to where they go to school, who their siblings are, who their friends are and what they enjoy doing and listening to.

If it’s just people they know who are viewing this kind of information, then it’s generally not too bad (except when being used as bullying), but the problem is when anyone can view it. Facebook does have privacy options that can be implemented, but many teens fail to spend the necessary time working on these, accidentally leaving their profiles wide open. Or they join a group, network or use applications that unknowingly have access to their information.

Helping Teenagers Use Facebook Safely

Regardless of potential problems of using Facebook, your teenagers will still inevitably want to use it. Whilst it’s worth sticking to the rules and not letting under 13s use Facebook, older teens will no doubt be hankering to get on. Rather than ban them from using it and making them the odd one out amongst their friends, it’s better to allow them to have a profile, but under your guidance.

Some parents join Facebook too, so they can be friends with their teen and keep an eye on the type of information they’re posting and sharing. Alternatively, you can help them set up their profile carefully, so that the necessary privacy options are selected and ticked.

If you explore the privacy settings in detail, you can carefully set them so that certain people can see certain things. For example, friends can see everything, but acquaintances that they don’t know that well can be restricted, so they can see the wall, but not the photos or details of where your teen goes to school.

As far as personal details go, it’s well worth encouraging your teen to avoid putting anything too specific on their profile, like their date of birth, place of birth, home address or telephone number. These are the sort of details that criminals enjoy harvesting and, if there’s a possibility that the information could be used for bullying or other dodgy means, it’s better if it’s not included in the first place.

Likewise, the same principles should be applied elsewhere on the Internet and, ideally, your teen should learn to not put everything about their life or interests on websites or blogs that could be viewed by anyone.

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