Blog Post

Why Facebook Loosened Teen Privacy Restrictions [VIDEO & INFOGRAPHIC]


We've seen Facebook change a lot through the years, but the latest change is causing quite the controversy in internet marketing. Facebook recently loosened its privacy restrictions for teens to allow them to make the information they post public. In the past, their information was restricted to friends and family, and possibly friends of friends. Watch today's video to learn about Facebook's new privacy policy for their teen audience, the prevalence of social media in teens' lives, and what it means for internet marketing.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today, we’re going to be hitting another privacy topic. We’re going to be talking about how Facebook is loosening some of their privacy restrictions for teen users. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Yeah, good morning, Chad. We seem to be on a roll with privacy, you’re right. We were talking about Google shared endorsements and the new terms of service yesterday. Today, the news is from Facebook, and they’re actually changing their privacy settings for teens. So, this is a very interesting topic targeted at their particular user base, particularly the minors, ages 13-17. The big change is that they can now make their posts visible to the general public.

This is a change, because they were previously restricted to friends and family, and now Facebook is choosing to treat these minors more like adult users, and they can have much more control over what happens to the content that they put onto Facebook. Teens will also be able to turn on the “follow” option which will allow anyone who isn’t a friend to see their public stuff in their news feeds. I think this is getting a lot of attention from parents. Chad, you and I can both relate, being parents ourselves. But, let’s dive into the numbers first, and let’s digest what’s actually happening.

The Pew Center for Research does great work on this, and they conducted a study about teen social media usage, and here are some of the high-level stats:

  • 1.2 billion users are on Facebook total.
  • Almost 90% of teens who are on social media have a Facebook account, so this is a very popular destination for teens.
  • Teens, on average, have 300 Facebook friends, so that might make some of us in the older generation feel slightly inadequate.

Let’s talk about their usage, too. They share tons of information. They’re hyperactive. We probably have all observed that anecdotally.

  • Over 90% post photos of themselves.
  • Over 50% share their e-mail addresses.
  • 20% share their cellphone number.
  • Over 70% share personal facts, such as the schools that they go to, the name of the school, or where they live.

So that, from a privacy angle, is also concerning. These are a couple of other high level stats, and then let’s open the discussion.

  • Over 50% have deleted something somebody else posted.
  • 45% have untagged themselves in a photo.

So they’re hyperactive in sharing, but those stats show you that there are things going up that even the teens don’t approve of and actively try to take back out of Facebook. What does this privacy change from Facebook really mean, Chad, and what is the discussion today?

You sort of talked a little bit about this, but let’s talk about the change here, because the default setting for anyone who is a teen, and really the only setting, was that all of your posts were “friends of friends.” So, the big deal here is that the default is actually changing to “just friends”, but then you have the ability to make all of your posts public. Now, when you do make your posts public, Facebook has added a special pop-up that’s going to say, “Your setting is public. Do you really want to do this? Yes/No,” so there is some catch there. But, Adam, as I think we know, most teens don’t really have any sort of control on what they think should be private or public, so they’re not going to have any problem opting through that pop-up. So, again, really this is sort of scary as a parent, it’s sort of scary for teens because basically this is going on your “permanent record,” if you will, and they’re going to be talking about all kinds of stuff.

When you think about this generation, and they’re being called generation M2, which I guess is a new term, and this is the first generation to kind of be growing up in this era of constant social media outlet, mobile devices, constant sharing, constant update, constant contact. So, I think we’re on the bleeding edge here, so it’s very hard to make predictions about where this is going to shake out, other than to say that I think it is very unlikely that it will stay where it is today. Most technologies just don’t do that, and the early couple iterations are usually pretty bumpy and sometimes ugly. I feel like we’re right in that range where this may be very dangerous, given the age of these folks. But, I guess the big question is why Facebook is doing this. Let’s just be blunt about the internet advertising opportunity. Do they see this as an untapped market, and they just want to get their ads out in front of these consumers at a formative age?

Well, you read the stats. The usage here is staggering, and of course they do. The more impressions the better, and this is great, very visually interesting content and it’s a great thing to put ads around. This is a hot audience and it has discretionary income, even though it may not come directly from their work. They’re certainly getting allowances, so yes, this is a very hot audience. But I think that the other big thing is that Facebook is looking at how to compete with Twitter and some of the other platforms that people are using. So, they’re thinking they need to be a parody. “If Twitter doesn’t have the same restrictions as we do, we need to figure out how to not become the platform you stay away from because it’s too restrictive, and everyone goes to Twitter.” So, I think a lot of this is just competitive response from other platforms.

Right. We reported earlier this week some of the digital ad revenue breakdown, and Facebook came in somewhere around 5% versus Google at a whopping 33% of the digital ad revenue. So, right, this might be their push to get their slice of the pie. I think the other side of the debate will be, “Are they exploiting a vulnerable set of consumers?” So, I think this is going to be a hot one to watch. The big question also on the teen side is whether they can handle this new responsibility of having these extremely public online lives that, in some cases, end up in your permanent record. We’d certainly be interested in your thoughts on this. We know there’s going to be a lot of debate. This privacy issue has been around for quite a while. Share your thoughts! Do you have kids? Do you allow them on Facebook? What do you see as the future of Facebook usage for minors? And, if you enjoyed the video, we hope you’ll subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Comments (4)

  • Jesse Reply

    Maybe it's because I was raised by fairly strict parents, but there is no way in heck I'd allow my young teen to have a FB page if I were a parent.

    10/17/13 at 04:50 PM
  • scottjcamp Reply

    My first "online account" was on Prodigy with a 2400bps Modem connection! It's a completely different world online now, and there's no way I'd want my kids online the way kids are today. There needs to be much more privacy connected to accounts managed by minors ...there are laws in place because they're not ready to protect themselves from the world behind their keyboard.

    10/17/13 at 05:01 PM
  • Jason G. Reply

    Staggering numbers.

    10/17/13 at 05:18 PM
  • Aqeel Reply

    With Facebook taking away the option to keep your profile out of search results, and also taking away privacy restrictions for teens, I don't know how parents can be ignorant about their kids' use of social media.

    Kids should be encouraged to go outside, not stay in their room and take selfies *duckface*

    10/18/13 at 10:54 AM

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