A social networking site is a place on the Web where interactions take place between friends and where new friendships and social networks are created. These sites each have a different purpose. Some, like LinkedIn focus on professional relations; others, such as Flixster deal with specific interests (in this case, movies); finally, there are those like Facebook that link up friends and relatives.
It’s not surprising that young people have taken to social networking – they are social creatures who need to constantly stay in touch with friends. The great majority of teens (53%) participate in some sort of social activity online. Social networking sites are where they spend most of their time leaving messages for their friends, sharing interesting links or information and posting photos and videos.
As with the adults, Facebook is the most popular social networking site for Canadian teens, with younger kids choosing to socialize in virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Webkinz and Neopets.
Teens need to understand that when you post anything online, you need to consider both your intended audience – like your friends – and a possible unintended audience – which can include anybody from marketers to people you definitely wouldn’t want to share your pictures, personal information and comments with.
Learning how to apply privacy settings on social networking sites is an important way to safeguard not only your personal information – but your reputation as well.
Because Facebook is overwhelmingly the most popular social networking site with Canadian teens, we’ve chosen it as our example. During the registration process, Facebook provides numerous opportunities to post personal information: when completing their profile, users are encouraged to include as much detail as possible by filling out the many spaces available.
The site does offer options and settings to protect information, but young people have often disregarded these options in favour of the default option which is “Everyone”.
Facebook's privacy settings function differently for users under 18 than for adults:
(For more detail see "How does privacy work for minors?" at the Facebook Help Center.) It's important to note, though, that these settings are only in effect if Facebook knows a user is under 18: if a user has lied about his or her age to join before turning 13 – as a significant number of youth have – Facebook will see them as adults if they have given an age over 18.
It’s worth taking a minute to learn more about the privacy options that are available on any site – a good place to start on Facebook is to spend some time reviewing its Data Use Policy with young people.
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