teens and techThis week, Facebook announced changes to its privacy rules that allow teenagers to post status updates, videos and photos publicly. If you’re a parent with a teen on Facebook, this opens the door to an important conversation that you and your child need to walk through…and soon.

What changed?

Until yesterday, Facebook users between the ages of 13 and 17 were only able to set the “audience” for their posts as “friends” or “friends of friends.” Now, these users have the option to set the audience as “public.” With these new rules, the status updates (including photos, videos, etc.) posted by adolescents who have made their audience “public” can be read by strangers, and by marketers.This may lead to unwanted friend requests or messages, or possible use of your teen’s photos or posts in marketing materials – on Facebook or beyond. If your 14 year old daughter (or you, for that matter) shares some vacation photos publicly on Facebook, you may someday see those photos used to advertise a beach vacation in Mexico, or a brand of jeans your daughter is wearing.

What your teen (and you) can do:

Adolescents (and adults, too) can still choose their privacy settings on Facebook.  This situation presents an enormous opportunity for parents to have conversations with their teens about privacy settings online.  For parents who have already had these conversations in the past, it’s time to sit down and discuss Facebook’s decision, review your family’s rules about online safety, and review your teen’s current privacy settings on Facebook – both their overall  “privacy settings” and the “audience” for their posts.  For parents who have been reluctant to start these tough conversations, you can’t wait any longer.  If your teen has a Facebook profile, please find 15 minutes tonight, sit together in front of your computer, look at the privacy setting options together and discuss.

— Megan Moreno, MD, MPH, guest blogger to Teenology 101

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