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
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.

No geeks here: Tri-Staters flock to learn coding
No geeks here: Tri-Staters flock to learn coding

If the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a computer programmer is someone sitting alone in a room, pounding away at a keyboard…

Apps to know and reporter woes in digital review
Apps to know and reporter woes in digital review

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

Reaching out to communities in different ways
Reaching out to communities in different ways

This week one project looks to double funds for a local hip hop and youth arts center. The second seeks help to expand a café that the…

Sony recalls some laptops over battery issue
Sony recalls some laptops over battery issue

Sony is recalling some of its VAIO laptop computers, saying that it's possible that its non-removable battery pack could overheat.

GOP, Dems clash over online domain names
GOP, Dems clash over online domain names

Republican opposition to Obama administration plans to spin off U.S. oversight of the Internet's domain name system is evolving into an…

Heartbleed: Which websites have security bug?
Heartbleed: Which websites have security bug?

One of the biggest encryption flaws the Internet has ever endured has potentially affected thousands of websites.

What you need to know about the Heartbleed bug
What you need to know about the Heartbleed bug

Millions of passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information may be at risk as a result of a major breakdown in Internet…