Facebook recently announced to the Wall Street Journal that the social networking giant is developing new software to monitor children under 13, allowing the smaller set to join the social network, (with limitations.) According to Consumer Reports, “5 million Facebook users are 10 and under.” This practice currently goes against Facebook’s TOS, citing that children must be 13, or older to use the website. What exactly is up Facebook’s sleeve?

Mechanisms being tested include connecting children’s accounts to their parents’ and controls that would allow parents to decide whom their kids can “friend” and what applications they can use, people who have spoken with Facebook executives about the technology said. The under-13 features could enable Facebook and its partners to charge parents for games and other entertainment accessed by their children, the people said.” (Source: WSJOnline)

Parents, have no fear.. Facebook has a plan to dip into your pocketbooks and find out even more about your children than they already know. When you hear about this announcement, consider the recent rise and immediate fall of Facebook’s stock. What advertiser wouldn’t want information about what games children are playing, what they are “liking” and their daily habits? It’s truly a marketing dream come true! The bullying and risk of pedophiles aren’t nearly as great as Facebook selling off your children’s personal data to the highest bidder. But… they wouldn’t do that, right? Gone is the old disclaimer that Facebook never uses your image in advertising. This is now in its place:

 

 

Want to turn that off? Sadly, Facebook makes online privacy very, very, complicated. Did you know Facebook offers an “Account Settings” and a “Privacy Settings” feature under your personal profile? To turn off advertisements and the use of your image, select, “Account Settings,” then “Facebook Ads.”

 

 

By selecting, “Edit third party settings,” you will no longer allow third-party applications, websites and ads to use your content and likeness. Once you select, “Edit social ads setting,” you’ll turn off Facebook’s “social ads,” which will use your face, likeness and statuses with advertiser messages. But what about the content that seems to magically just show up in your stream like those pesky status updates showing the websites you’re visiting and which articles you’ve read online? To turn off outside applications, select, “Apps” from the drop-down in “Account Settings.” Like this:

 

 

 

I run very few applications with my Facebook. See the “x” located to the right of “Edit” on BranchOut? This means you can remove the application at anytime. It is our job to monitor what applications we are allowing our personal information to stream to, not Facebook’s. Remember, Facebook isn’t concerned about our privacy, it’s concerned about its IPO. The more money Facebook makes off our personal information, the more profitable the team can become. I don’t mind that Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire. He toiled over a cutting-edge product and make it adaptable to the masses. What I do mind is that he is now getting rich off my personal information. You can bet that until I am completely convinced that I know Facebook’s privacy inside and out, I won’t allow my young child on their website, not because she isn’t trustworthy, or because I don’t have the time to monitor her, but because of Facebook’s track record with violations. In fact, just recently, the FTC sued Facebook over alleged privacy violations. Mark Zuckerberg even issued a Mea culpa over the violations and Facebook’s determination to stay transparent. If you’re a Wikipedia fan, head over to their page, “Criticism of Facebook.”

Is Facebook an evil overlord? No. Do we have a right to be cautious? Absolutely. When we leave our houses, we lock our doors. Consider the fact that when you don’t take the time to understand what platform you are using and how they are making money, alike to leaving your doors wide open for anyone to peek in and take whatever they’d like. Simply by using Facebook’s platform, we are acknowledging that we have to play by their rules and their rules, alone. Protecting your children and yourself in a digital age is no easy feat. Consider this scenario, since Facebook is going to allow children on its website, will you immediately publish your children’s photos, their personal information and allow them a free-for-all? Probably not. We don’t give teenagers the keys to a car without first teaching them to understand the risks and safety precautions. Actually getting behind the wheel is the last part of the teaching process.

{Protect your children online in these 3, easy, steps}

1. It’s to realize the “cool” parents are usually not the best examples. When your child claims that another parent allows the use of Facebook, ask them, “Do you know how to protect yourself online?” Tell your children that it is your job to educate and inspire them to make good choices. Visit FacebookForParents.org or connectsafely.org together and keep an open dialog. You might learn something from your child and they will surely learn something from you.

2. Would you allow your child to get in your car without a seatbelt? No Way! If you choose Facebook as an option for your family, make sure you have safety guards in place. Trust, goes a long way with children. Create a Trust sheet with family passwords for Facebook and post in the kitchen, or in a place where your child and you both know about. Their seatbelt is the fact that mom and dad can create dialog about Facebook anytime. Just remember, it’s all about how the question is asked. If you notice something inappropriate or unsightly on their page, although it might be difficult, always give your child the benefit of the doubt and state an open ended question. “Sarah, I was doing the weekly Facebook check-in and I noticed one of your friends posted a picture of herself on your page. Was that embarassing? Or is that the norm?” While your child may say, “Oh mom, that’s nothing,” it gives you an opening to express dialog about sexting, photos and healthy body image. If you said instead, “Your friend Sarah is acting inappropriately. Delete that!” You might find a much less talkative daughter.

3. Your House, your rules. Stop accepting that we need to conform to be a part of today’s world. Plenty of children do not use social media and I promise, they’ll turn out just fine. By creating firm boundaries, educating yourself about privacy and Facebook’s TOS, you’ll be an even more amazing parent than you already are. Wow your children with your knowledge and skill, online. They’ll grow up in an environment where mom or dad is comfortable and capable of empowering themselves online, you’ll see more respect and dialog from your children about the evolving world of digital media.

 

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