10 Mistakes Teens Make on Facebook (and What to Do About It)
If you have a teen, you can pretty much bet that he or she is active on Facebook. And while it might seem like a harmless way for teens to connect with friends, they may be putting themselves in danger if they’re not careful.
Here are some mistakes to look for on your teen’s Facebook profile and ways to talk to your child about them. Or if he or she doesn’t “friend” you, at least you’ll have something to talk about over dinner.
1) Not using privacy settings. Not instituting privacy settings on Facebook allows anyone to see your teen’s information – where they attend school, where they live, even where they’ll be and when.
What you can say: Privacy settings are important because they allow your followers to see only what you want them to see. For example, maybe you want Uncle John to view your updates, but not photos. And maybe you want your friends to see your photos, but not friends of friends. Sounds complicated, but it’s relatively simple to set up.
2) Letting the world see your profile. Not setting limits on who sees a profile allows anyone to garner information about your child.
What you can say: Explain to your child how often employers use social networking sites to screen applicants. Also explain that what he or she posts online lives in the cyber world forever, even after hitting delete.
3) Using your full name. Most kids don’t think twice about potential identity theft or child predators. Using their full names could make kids even more vulnerable to both. As a mom of a tween girl, this is one of the most concerning mistakes.
What you can say: You obviously don’t want to scare your child, but it’s important to make them aware of any potential dangers out there. Tell her this simple change can make you feel a lot better about her safety and it’s a simple thing she can do to protect herself (and keep you off her back).
4) Posting inappropriate comments. I’ve seen this first-hand more times than I can count (from my own boys). You don’t even have to be the one to post it – a friend can post something off-color on your page.
What you can say: If this happens, remove the post immediately. And although it will no longer be visible on your child’s page, it may still show up on a friend’s. Have your child talk to his friend about deleting the post entirely.
5) Posting inappropriate photos. Even on the Facebook site it says, “unless you're prepared to attach something in your profile to a resume or scholarship application, don't post it.” This includes items your friends post too.
What you can say: If a friend has “tagged” you in an inappropriate or unwanted photo, remove the tag right away. It will no longer be linked to your profile. Similar to #4, talk to your friend about deleting it from her account too.
6) Friending people you don’t know. As adults, we know who to accept in our network. But teens trying to get the most friends aren’t nearly as choosey.
What you can say: Be sure your teen knows that people he or she isn’t familiar with may pose risks. More and more stories in the news show links between casual social networking acquaintances and burglaries because posts can clue them in on when you’re not home.
7) Sharing your account password. According to Facebook, “not even to your best friend or significant other.”
What you can say: Your daughter may think she and her bestie will be buds forever, but we all know how quickly that can change. The last thing your child wants is an enemy with access to her account who has the ability to post as your teen. Tell her to keep account info to herself. You just never know.
8 ) Ignoring unwanted and harassing messages. Unwanted posts can be anything from inappropriate updates to cyber bullying.
What you can say: If your child receives a questionable or threatening post, have him click on the “report message” link and block the user from accessing his profile. He also can limit others from finding him in the Facebook search directory.
9) Ignoring controlling behavior from an ex. Yes, your child thought her relationship with Mr. Perfect was going to last forever. It didn’t. Now he’s talking smack all over her page.
What you can say: Never let a current or ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend control or stalk your Facebook profile. This could be a sign of abuse. Have your child block the ex entirely, and report any incidents of abuse directly to the social network.
10) Ignoring Facebook’s signup policy. “Mom! All of my friends are on Facebook and they’re not 13 yet either!”
What you can say: Facebook requires individuals to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account. Providing false information to create an account is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This includes accounts registered on the behalf of under 13-year-old children by older parties. In other words, just say no.
Staci Perkins is a mom of four, ages 9 to 17, and has all of her Facebook privacy settings on.
Facebook Safety for Teens
Connect Safely's Facebook Guide for Parents
Trust that once your teenager is on Facebook, he or she may make some mistakes, so get SafetyWeb to make sure you're alerted immediately to any potential dangers or unwise activity, such as privacy settings that change to public, or content posted by your child or by your child's friends that trip a 'red flag alert' for parental review.