What is Facebook?
Description: Not much needs to be said. With over 1 billion users, 350 million photos uploaded daily (over 250 billion to date!) it is the king of social media. It can be used through the app or through the web at facebook.com.
Category: Social Media
APP Store rating: 12+ (used to be 4+), although users are supposed to be at least 13 years old in order to comply with the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which applies to websites and online services that collect personal information. Additionally, according to Apple’s own rules, any app that allows unrestricted web access receives an automatic 17+ rating. As explained below, Facebook does allow unrestricted web access. (Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes, Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References, Infrequent/Milk Sexual Content and Nudity, and Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor)
What do Parents Need to Know About Facebook?
Privacy is mostly possible: both privacy and exposure to inappropriate content should be on parents’ radar. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PRIVACY ON THE WEB! Facebook feeds off sharing its users’ information with each other. Teenagers typically overshare private information, so parents must have intentional conversations around what should and shouldn’t be shared. Information that parents might suggest keeping off Facebook includes birth date, home address, and their real phone number. Facebook is genius at gathering all of that personal information and selling it to everyone.
Look Hard Enough and You Will Find It: there are also endless numbers of inappropriate people, photos, pages, and apps that can be accessed through Facebook with a simple search. Actual pornography isn’t in plain sight but can be found with a savvy search (mostly by clicking through “likes” of random people).
But, if a teen is using the Facebook App, this search activity would not show up on monitoring reports. Only if Facebook is being accessed through a monitored browser like Covenant Eyes would this search activity be discoverable. The hashtag feature just creates a repository of specific themes for people to troll, i.e., #girls, #kikme, #snapchatnudes, etc.
Unfiltered internet access exists in the Facebook app: recently, we discovered that users can access unfiltered internet searches through Facebook. The major search engines have a company page on Facebook, and also have their URL’s on the company pages. Through these URL’s in Facebook, e.g., www.google.com, users have unfiltered access to the web. Parents must be aware of this.
Location Sharing: we share too much information about our location with the social media world. Here’s how to control it better in Facebook.
Facebook Dating: In September 2019, Facebook introduced Facebook Dating as part of the main Facebook app. Users will need to opt-in and set up their dating profile. This article from The Atlantic describes it well and does a bit of comparison between other dating apps like Tinder. There are a lot of unknowns about privacy and how much of your data Facebook is using to create matches (which are not chosen from any of your friends–>there is a Secret Crush option if you would like to date one of your friends and if they pick you as a Secret Crush, then you will be matched). This article explains how to protect your privacy within Facebook Dating.
Ready to delete your personal page, your group or other page? You can follow these instructions from HubSpot.
The bottom line: is Facebook safe?
Facebook is social media. Therefore, COPPA is applicable, and all users should be at least 13. That being said, Facebook is actually a pretty attractive social platform for training kids what social media is all about.
This is because www.facebook.com operates very similarly as the Facebook App. And, by co-using www.facebook.com through a filtered and monitored web browser, like Covenant Eyes or Mobicip, inappropriate content can be partially blocked, and for what does get through, it can be discussed when it hits monitoring reports. This makes Facebook a very nice training ground for young users (who can then graduate to the app version once they prove trustworthy).
Related blog post: What’s the Right Age to Give My Kid Social Media?
If you want extra assurance, then the Bark solution can monitor for inappropriate search words and words used in posts in the Facebook app, sending alerts to parents. Pretty cool!