Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Facebook Reality Check

I recently attended a presentation intended to educate parents on the evils and benefits of Facebook. Although I found the presenter and much of her material disturbing, I did feel we benefited from attending.

First off, let me say I have a Facebook account and I love it. I have been able to connect with friends from high school and one from as far back as grade school when I lived in Costa Rica. I am also able to check on my children and send them notes like "Why were you out in the snow with a cookie sheet?" or "I thought you were studying for a test all last night, so what is up with the hurdling contest in the dorm hallways?"

My kids love it. :-)

I am also able to keep updated on nieces who are expecting babies, cousins who are on vacation and aunts and uncles who will be in town visiting.

So I went to the presentation fully supporting Facebook. But during the presentation I became more and more uncomfortable.

The presenter very strongly suggested (ordered) everyone in attendance to open an account that very day. She said we would all be out of touch with the times if we did not have one. She even went so far as to suggest that when Christ appears at His second coming, we will probably be notified via Facebook. Huh? Seriously? At any rate, the more she pushed, the more uncomfortable I became--and so did my daughter sitting next to me.

After covering the many benefits, she then addressed some of the draw backs. This is where I felt I benefited the most from attending. She pulled up her FB page and then called a 12 year old boy out of the audience to come up and do a search for his name. He did, and his page came up. She then clicked on "wall" and all of his information popped up in front of us.

Turns out all his privacy settings were set on "everyone", so with one click of a mouse all his information was up on a screen available for everyone in the room to see. He then went to one of his "friends" --which in this case was his mother-- and suddenly all of her information was available as well.

I later thought about the times I have surfed FB looking for information on someone. Whenever one of my daughters mentions the name of a boy she is interested in, I usually turn to FB to find out what I can about him. (My kids call it stalking, I like to call it "responsible parenting":-) Most of the young men have their information blocked, but I can still access their pictures. You can learn a lot about someone from pictures.

One time we looked at about 30 photos. From those we learned the approximate age of the boy, where and when he served his mission, his major, where he lived, some of his hobbies and what campus clubs he had joined. That is a lot of information in just a few pictures.

And it is certainly more information than I would want a stranger being able to access about one of my children.

So here are some guidelines we were given to help us use FB more responsibly.

1. If you have children on FB, you should have an account as well and "friend" them so you can see what they are doing/receiving.

2. If your children are minors, you should also know their password.

3. Discuss with your children their "friending" policy. I have daughters who have 800 plus friends. This means that 800 plus people can potentially access all their information and share it with their friends. It may be wiser to have your children limit their friends to close friends and family members. (When we came home, my youngest daughter "de-friended" over a hundred people.)

4. Check your privacy settings. If needed, update all 9 basic and multiple granular privacy settings to "friends only". (Go to "account" and then "privacy".)

5. Review the fan and group pages you belong to. These are always public. Un-join as many as possible.

6. Review the apps that you use and think twice before using them again. Some make information (like your location) public.

7. Check the privacy settings on your photo albums. It is possible to make "lists" of people and limit the viewing of pictures to just those on the list. (To make a "list" go to "account" then "friends" and up on the right hand corner click on "lists". )

8. Un-tag yourself in random pictures.

9. Be very, very careful what information you put on your account and what you write on your wall. Many employers, the FBI, insurance companies and others currently use FB to gather information about people. Be sure what you post adequately represents you in the way you want to be presented.

And then enjoy connecting with friends and family!


Cherie said...

I hope we will still be friends :-D but I am not a Facebook fan. I do not belong and never will. I have not missed it in my life at all.
However, my husband opened an account just to check on our children - which is definately a smart thing to do since we cannot control our children when they become of age - ha ha.
It is also good to know the dangers and I will be having all my children look at the list on your blog today! So Thank you!

Rebecca Irvine said...

Great advice. I will be checking these off. Hopefully I have not overly exposed myself so far.

Amber said...

I don't use my full name and i have a fake b-day on facebook. it's kind of funny to get happy b-day wishes on new year's day!

Momza said...

All of my yahoos have FB except the youngest two--they can get one when they're in HS. That's our rule.
And I do have the pw's to our 15 yo's account, and am friends with her too--actually everyone in our family is friends with one another.
I got it mainly bc all the missionaries who've served by us have BF and that's how we keep in touch. Also, I'm like you--I have been found by, and found, many long lost relatives and friends thru FB.
I love it.
But you're right, we have to be careful. Thanks, Lori!

Sue said...

I'm on FB, but I'm not overly active there.

I'm too involved with blogging!


Marilyn said...

Thanks for sharing the info. When talking to the computer tech (while picking up my recently repaired computer), he said that FB apps are notorious for having viruses that can infect your computer. He said never click on a pop up add. I got a weird message from some random man the other day!

Heidi said...

Good points, all. (Now I know why so many people are unliking my Miss D fan page.)

Just ME the MOM said...

Lots of good tips, I'm going to review my kids facebook accounts and see if they need to make changes - thank you!!


Da Bergs said...

GOOD info!!! thanks!!!