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Facebook tweaks privacy settings allowing 13- to 17-year-olds to go public

Teenagers can now post publicly on the site as Facebook seeks to keep up with other social media services

Facebook has announced another change to its privacy policies, now allowing teenagers from the age of 13 upwards to post content publicly on the site.

Previously only those aged 18 and up could broadcast posts to individuals they weren’t friends with. The update will keep this the default setting, but allow 13-17 year olds to change it as they like.

“Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook,” said Facebook.

“While only a small fraction of teens using Facebook might choose to post publicly, this update now gives them the choice to share more broadly, just like on other social media services.”

Some parents and privacy groups have not reacted well to the changes, accusing Facebook of exploiting users’ safety in order to forward their business model (and keep competitive with rivals), but the social network has added extra warnings to try and keep teenagers aware of who can see their posts.

“We take the safety of teens very seriously, so they will see an extra reminder before they can share publicly. When teens choose “Public” in the audience selector, they’ll see a reminder that the post can be seen by anyone, not just people they know, with an option to change the post’s privacy.”

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The new settings will make teens double-check their settings before broadcasting something publicly.

Although educating teenagers about how to keep safe on the internet is often seen as the duty of websites and parents, research suggests that the teens themselves are already one step ahead.

Studies conducted by the Pew research center in America suggests that although teenagers are now sharing more information than ever before online the vast majority of them tweak their privacy settings and are confident they can manage who sees their information online.

A survey from May 2013 indicated that 60 per cent of Facebook user aged 12 to 17 had their profile set to private, whilst 25 per cent had it partially private, and only 14 per cent made it completely public.

Girls were substantially more likely to keep their info “friends only” (70 per cent vs 50 per cent) and more than half of users (56 per cent) said it was “not difficult at all” to manage privacy controls with one in three (33 per cent) saying that it was “not too difficult”.

Although these findings do not necessarily mean that teens are definitely safer (they could be overestimating their ability to manage their privacy) it does indicate that keeping safe online is something that’s on the minds of young people as much as adults.  

Click here to read about the changes to Facebook’s privacy policy in full.