Facebook pulls back privacy curtain on teen posts

Facebook announced yesterday that teen users will be able to share posts publicly. That's good news for youth celebrities and teens involved in social activism, but also raises privacy concerns.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
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.

Facebook announced yesterday that teen users will now have the option of sharing their posts publicly, where they previously could only share photos, status updates, and links with friends and friends of friends.

Facebook explained the reasoning behind the change as a move to amplify teen voices in a press release yesterday.

“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. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook.”

However, some critics have suggested that the change has less to do with the needs of teenagers and is more of a marketing strategy.

“It’s all about monetization and being where the public dialogue is,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a group that lobbies against marketing to children told the New York Times. “To the extent that Facebook encourages people to put everything out there, it’s incredibly attractive to Facebook’s advertisers.”

Others have raised concerns that teens may not fully understand the implications of posting publicly. For its part, Facebook maintains that it will periodically remind teens that have selected the public option that means that people they do not know can see what they post, according to the press release.

However, not all teens have the same understanding of what kind of a message their posts send to the world and how it can change the way others view them. 

“Naive 13-year-olds might wrongly assume that anything inside the site or app’s blue walls can’t be used against them,” reports Josh Costine for Tech Crunch. “But should that mean intelligent, responsible 17-year-olds with driver’s licenses should be able to post publicly? It’s a nuanced, subjective thing to judge.”

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