A couple of recent blog articles about Facebook privacy settings got me thinking, once again, about the importance of informing parents, and other adults who live and work with teens, about how to setup social networking accounts to maximize privacy.

The first post I saw is on the Read Write Web blog. The article has a title that says it all, How to Friend Mom, Dad, and the Boss on Facebook…Safely. In the text readers find a clear rundown of how to use the various privacy settings on Facebook to decide what profile information to make available to specific users.

The second post I read appears on All Facebook: The Unofficial Facebook blog. The post titled, 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know, looks at techniques beyond privacy settings for managing a Facebook account. For example, it discusses how to remove an account from the Facebook search engine and from Google. It also details how to use tagging and albums successfully so to help keep information private.

With these articles in hand, this is the perfect time for librarians to help demystify social networking privacy. How can they do this? By providing online and face-to-face training and discussions on the various techniques that adults, not just teens, need to know. What if your school or library sponsored a workshop during a PTA meeting where the adults in attendance learned about all the options there are for making various aspects of a Facebook account private? Maybe a presentation at a teacher in-service is the way to go. Or, what about a set of screencasts on social networking privacy options.

Recent research shows that teens are often smarter about online privacy than many adults. This information might be just what you need in order to sell the idea that teens should develop and implement programs for adults on social networking privacy. This could be a great way to give teens the chance to demonstrate to adults how smart they are about using social networking safely. It would also be a good chance to have teens discuss and think critically about how they do and don’t use social networking privacy options.

By the way, over the past couple of days I’ve been reading that the demographic that’s growing the most on Facebook is women over 55. These women may be parents of teens that you serve and they will want and need to know how Facebook works. Or, even if these women aren’t parents of teens, it might make a lot of sense for teens to help these Facebook users use social networking successfully. Inter-generational programming doesn’t have to be with youth and the retired set. Facebook privacy settings might be the perfect way to connect teens with Generation Jones.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

5 Thoughts on “Facebook & Privacy

  1. I think I have to add “social networking” to the list of real-world skills that should be taught to kids in school but, sadly, aren’t. (Balancing a checkbook, making a budget, and writing a resume and cover letter are also there. There are programs that get this information out, of course, but they’re opt-in, not part of the curriculum, and not accessible to the kids who need them the most.)

    If we weren’t so scared of inappropriate use and online predators, we could be teaching students about the way to create a powerful online presence–which includes thinking carefully about online privacy and the kinds of networks that are actually worthwhile to join.

  2. I agree with mk. As a former classroom teacher and school librarian, I tried to teach internet safety, but my hands were mostly tied because the technology facilitators filtered every site that connected to any kind of social network. At that time, the news was full of teens meeting people online through “My Space,” and while some fear was justified, the fear actually prevented teens from learning how to protect themselves. Parents and other responsible adults such as school and public librarians can instruct both parents and adolescents about how to be “social” but safe.

    Public and school librarians can really form some community partnerships here to help educate and protect their patrons. It would help to offer training sessions and invite both parents and their children in to learn about the social networks.

  3. Virginia was the first state to mandate Internet safety classes last year. Though not having seen the curriculum I can’t comment on what kind of education the students are getting in that area. Also, the Broadband Data Improvement Act was signed into law last year (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-1492) which in part requires students to be educated on Internet use and cyberbullying.

  4. And of course for students to be taught about safe Internet use the adults in their lives have to know how it works. Developing classes for teachers on privacy and such should be a good way to help things get going.

  5. Lisa Lindsay on February 10, 2009 at 10:57 pm said:

    for Myspace parents were always told: “join youself and then become friends with your son/daughter so you can see what they are doing.” it’s interesting that with facebook, one of the privacy settings is specifically to block the parent from seeing everything the child is doing. well the parent and the boss etc. all the more important for parents who want to be involved, to know that there are levels of privacy. options that can and should be utilized and not just to hide stuff from parents.

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