Facebook to let teens share with bigger, older audience

a a a a
Share this story

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Facebook is now allowing teenagers to share their posts on the social network with anyone on the Internet, raising the risks of minors leaving a digital trail that could lead to trouble.

The change announced Wednesday affects Facebook users who list their ages as 13 to 17.

Until now, Facebook users falling within that age group had been limited to sharing information and photos only with their own friends or friends of those friends.

The new policy will give teens the choice of switching their settings so their posts can be accessible to the general public. That option already has been available to adults, including users who are 18 or 19.

As a protective measure, Facebook will warn minors opting to be more open that they are exposing themselves to a broader audience. The caution will repeat before every post, as long as the settings remain on "public."

The initial privacy settings of teens under 18 will automatically be set so posts are seen only by friends. That's more restrictive than the previous default setting that allowed teens to distribute their posts to friends of their friends in the network.

In a blog post, Facebook said it decided to revise its privacy rules to make its service more enjoyable for teens and to provide them with a more powerful megaphone when they believe they have an important point to make or a cause to support.

"Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard," Facebook wrote.

The question remains whether teens understand how sharing their thoughts or pictures of their activities can come back to haunt them, said Kathryn Montgomery, an American University professor of communications who has written a book about how the Internet affects children.

"On the one hand, you want to encourage kids to participate in the digital world, but they are not always very wise about how they do it," she said. "Teens tend to take more risks and don't always understand the consequences of their behavior."

The relaxed standards also may spur teens to spend more time on Facebook instead of other services, such as Snapchat, that are becoming more popular hangouts among younger people. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, though, says that the company's internal data shows its social network remains a magnet for teens.

Giving people more reasons to habitually visit its social network is important to Facebook because a larger audience helps sell more of the ads that generate most of the Menlo Park, Calif., company's revenue.

"What this is really about is maximizing the kind of sharing at the heart of Facebook's business model," Montgomery said. She worries that unleashing teens to share more about themselves to a general audience will enable advertisers to collect more personal data about minors "who aren't aware that their movements and interests are under a digital microscope."

Facebook hasn't disclosed how many of its nearly 1.2 billon users are teens. The social network was initially limited to college students when Zuckerberg started it in 2004, but he opened the service to a broader audience within a few years.

The teen audience is large enough to give Facebook periodic headaches. As its social network has steadily expanded, Facebook has had to combat sexual predators and bullies who prey upon children.

Facebook doesn't allow children under 13 to set up accounts on its service but doesn't have a reliable way to verify users' ages.
 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More Technology News
REPLAY: SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape
REPLAY: SpaceX rocket blasts off from Cape

A SpaceX commercial rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral on schedule Friday afternoon and is heading to the International Space Station.

5 features Amazon smartphone might offer
5 features Amazon smartphone might offer

Rumors of an Amazon smartphone reached a fever pitch this week, with several tech blogs speculating that the device could be due out this year.

An airline oops tops digital week in review
An airline oops tops digital week in review

Each week, we recap the stories and trends that made headlines in the digital world. Read on to see what you missed.

NASA's moon-orbiting robot crashes down
NASA's moon-orbiting robot crashes down

NASA's robotic moon explorer, LADEE, is no more. Flight controllers confirmed early Friday that the moon-orbiting spacecraft crashed into…

Tiny power plants hold promise for nuclear power
Tiny power plants hold promise for nuclear power

Small underground nuclear power plants that could be cheaper to build than their behemoth counterparts may herald the future for an energy…

‘Liking' a brand on Facebook means you can't sue
‘Liking' a brand on Facebook means you can't sue

If you click ‘Like’ on your favorite brands or companies on Facebook, you could be signing up for more than you bargained for.

Facebook to launch new location-sharing feature
Facebook to launch new location-sharing feature

Facebook users in the U.S. will soon be able to see which of their friends are in close proximity using a new feature the company is…

Bust a move! Local teen dances to end bullying
Bust a move! Local teen dances to end bullying

He takes the stage to spread his anti-bullying message. Who is Jeff Bullis? Meet the 19-year-old West Chester, Oh. teen who is using his…

Hacker attack? NKU Cyber Defense Team can help
Hacker attack? NKU Cyber Defense Team can help

The students bested teams from nine states--including the University of Louisville--in a recent competition. Organizers described the cyber…

Scammers using Netflix to steal from millions
Scammers using Netflix to steal from millions

A dangerous new phishing scam is targeting the sensitive information of millions of Netflix users.