Facebook Privacy Settings: Understanding the three privacy groups and how to adjust them

On Tuesday, I shared tips on how students can use social media to their academic advantage, one of which was setting your Facebook profile to private. Maureen recently received an email from a program her daughter is involved in informing her of how to talk with her daughter about the responsibility that comes with having a social media presence, the effect a bad presence can have on her future and instructions on how to set her settings to different degrees of privacy.

Since Facebook is the most popular social network used by students — and it is usually wrongly assumed that students born into the digital age are tech savvy — I think it is important to show parents, teachers, and students how to change privacy settings on the social networking site and the consequences of sharing private information in public areas. The following tips are adapted from Richard Rossi’s newsletter, “Is Your Child Sharing Too Much Online?”

The Three Privacy Groups on Facebook

In the upper, right-hand corner, click on Account and then Privacy Settings. Your child has a choice of their information being accessible to Everyone, Friends and Networks, Friends of Friends, or Friends Only.

#1 – Connecting on Facebook

These settings control how other people will be able to find your child’s Facebook profile.

  • Search for you on Facebook: This allows people to find a user by typing their name in the Facebook search bar. (Recommended setting: everyone)
  • Send you friend requests: After a user finds someone by using the search, they send a friend request to join each other’s network. (Recommended setting: everyone)
  • Send you messages: People can find you and send a message. This setting choice will probably vary depending on if you and your child decide they should be receiving messages from users who aren’t their “friend”.
  • See your friend list: Your child might be using their privacy settings on Facebook, but are their friends? Just in case someone is interested in learning something about your child by looking at the crowd they run with, consider using a privacy setting on this feature. (Recommended setting: friends only)
  • See your education and work; current city and hometown; likes, activities, and other connections. (Recommended setting: friends only)

#2 – Sharing on Facebook

This is where your child controls who is allowed to see their activity on their or their friends’ wall. This area should be customized from the default settings to display only the information they and you feel comfortable being public. For instance, it might be decided that sharing your child’s birthday and interests are appropriate whereas sharing their cellphone number and IM screen name is not. This information most likely has the least amount of consequences attached to it. However, to play it safe, you’re child might decide to only let “friends” have access.

#3 – Apps, Games, and Websites

You and your child need to discuss third party applications having access to their personal information. All the information that they have on their profile will be accessible when they click the “agree” button to play their favorite game or quiz. The following are some settings that you probably want to discuss customizing with your child:

  • Apps you use
  • Info accessible through your friends
  • Public search – If your child doesn’t uncheck the option “Enable public search” their information will show up in search results on sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Social networking should be fun and kept between friends. Offer your child some scenarios, like their friend tags them in a picture that puts them in an unflattering light and a prospective employer sees it. Would they change their privacy settings? If your child has a hard time understanding why you want them to adjust their privacy settings, ask them to help you understand why it’s important to them to have their profile information public and see if there are compromises to be made. Have you had a Facebook or social networking discussion with your child or students? Please share your story in the comment box below.



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