Facebook’s new Privacy settings redefine borders for teens

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Kayla Everett

Sophomore Jacob Cupps taking a rare moment to check his Facebook news feed. “I prefer Twitter and Tumblr over Facebook because I can be anybody I want to be on those sites. On Facebook it’s a lot of drama all the time, so it’s not as fun,” he said.

Facebook has modified their privacy policy to expand the amount of information shared with other Facebook users and anonymous Internet browsers. As of the fall of 2013, the company relaxed their teen privacy settings to allow users between the ages of 13 and 17 a wider online audience. Teens can now be searched and followed by strangers and can post all content publicly.

According to a study for Pew, the loosening of the privacy policy, put in place to protect teens online, is due to a decline in use of the website among youth. Facebook is becoming more of a relic as older generations continue to make up a bigger percentage of their user base because teens are flocking to more open social media outlets like Twitter, Tumblr, and Ask.fm.

“I like Twitter and Tumblr because they’re actually more selective about who you interact with. On Facebook there’s more pressure to add all your classmates and family, so you have to watch what you post. On other sites, I choose whom I want to follow and who I want to see my stuff without that added pressure,” senior Yvonne Krumrey said. “It’s more invasive in a way because all your personal information is readily available on Facebook, whereas on Tumblr and Twitter you’re more anonymous. Those accounts aren’t connected to your school or work networks.”

The new privacy settings are to entice teens away from these other social media outlets back to Facebook.

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

However, the privacy policy changes are having little popularity with Parkway West teens.

“Facebook seems to always be making improvements to help with security, but they end up causing more of an inconvenience and the options are so hard to navigate that I never really know how private anything is on my Facebook,” senior Jason Erwin said. “Twitter is much more upfront about [privacy settings], which is why [teens] flock to it.”

Adult critics of the privacy policy worry that the publicizing of the personal information of minors could potentially put them at risk by exposing them to users with malicious intent, including stalking, bullying, and data theft. Other concerns include that many teen users are not aware of or do not completely understand what it means to be completely exposed on the Internet, and what consequences that exposure can bring.

“I’m very concerned about not only how it’s going to impact my child, but his future professionally and socially,” English teacher Shannan Creemens said. “When you’re a teenager, you don’t think about the consequences of your actions. They can come back to hurt you in the future.”