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How to Protect Kids on Facebook

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The Heritage Foundation gives Facebook a child safety rating of C.

Safety Rating Explanation: Facebook has added more parental oversight features to its platform. Although these are a step in the right direction, the potential to be contacted by strangers through Messenger and limited tools for parents to filter content for age appropriateness are significant drawbacks.

What Is Facebook?

Facebook is a social networking website that allows users to interact with other users, share photos and videos, and stay up to date on the latest news. Facebook’s “Friends” feature allows users to connect with people they know or share interests with, including friends and family, groups that focus on hobbies or topics, and strangers from around the world.

How Do Facebook Users Share Content?

Content is shared on Facebook by posting text, pictures, videos, and links for “Friends” to see and interact with. Facebook accounts can either be public or private, which gives users a degree of control over what can be viewed by everyone on the Internet or by specific groups of people.

What Is Facebook Messenger?

Facebook Messenger is a virtual communication platform on Facebook, enabling people to have text and multimedia conversations online. While it provides a convenient means for kids to stay connected with their friends, it’s important to be aware of potential online hazards. These include the possibility of communicating with unfamiliar individuals, encountering inappropriate material, and facing privacy risks that could jeopardize personal information.

Is Facebook Safe for My Child?

It depends. Internal Facebook documents have demonstrated that Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is aware of the negative mental health effects of its platforms. Although Facebook’s primary user base is older than that of many other social media platforms, it poses similar mental health risks to children who access the platform. Facebook requires its users to be 13 years old to sign up for an account, but this requirement can be easily circumvented. Another area of concern is with bad actors, who can create accounts purporting to be other people and potentially harm or harass children through Messenger.

How Can I Keep Track of My Child’s Activity on Facebook?

All Facebook users under the age of 16 are defaulted to more private settings when they create new accounts on the platform. Existing accounts for those under 16 have similarly been given the option to update their privacy settings for who can see their “Friends” list, who can see the people and pages they follow, and reviewing posts they are tagged in before the they appear on their profile. Parents should enable these settings under the “Profile and Audience” tab to ensure that their children and teens are only interacting with trustworthy individuals.

How to Control the Settings in Your Children’s Facebook Account

  1. Open the Facebook app or website in your browser.
  2. Select “Settings & privacy,” then click “Settings.”
  3. Click “Privacy” in the left column.
  4. Under “How People Find and Contact You,” you’ll see a setting for your email and your phone number.
  5. Click “Edit” and then adjust to select who can look you up using that information. Be sure to adjust for both email and phone number.
  6. Facebook allows you to limit your audience when you post. To ensure that your/your child’s posts can be viewed only by people that are trustworthy and know you, adjust this setting to “Friends.”
  7. You can also remove yourself from public posts that you are tagged in. Go to the post or photo, click the ellipses symbol (…) on the top right of the post, and click “Remove tag.”

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