After School Special: Facebook Could Be Terrible For Kids

Move over Coca-Cola, MTV, and Ecstasy, there is a new trend exploiting the youth of America. It’s called social media. In a Huffington Post article, Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media wrote that, “The average child spends more time today with media than they do in school or with their family.” Steyer’s company, Common Sense Media is a think tank and authority on social media and its connection to families. In the same article, Steyers went on to say that, “More than 5 million kids under the age of 13 have joined Facebook, tens of millions more teenagers use the site for hours every day.”

With social media technology that allows us to check-in at locations and tag friends and family, our privacy is becoming impossible to control. Steyer goes on to explain that as a parent, keeping up to date on new technology is hard enough without having to worry about what your children are posting, tagging and sharing on Facebook and Twitter. “They populate their timeline, tag photos, like and share, oblivious to the fact their actions are being watched and tracked — pawns in the Internet monetization strategy known as ‘Big Data’,” Steyer’s wrote.

A Consumer Reports study released at the beginning of May estimated that 13 million Facebook users have not used or do not know about Facebook privacy settings. The majority of social media users either are ignorant to privacy issues surrounding social media sites or they simply do not care. In his article, Steyer’s also calls out big social media pioneers asking them, “If you can come up with features such as facial recognition or geo-locators, why can’t you come up with eraser buttons? Why do you need to track my kid and sell ads against them?”

As part of the generation that saw the birth of MySpace and Facebook, it is easy to understand Steyer’s frustration. Teens are rarely concerned with their information being bought and sold for tailored advertisements. Entering you zip code and email address are just two obstacles in the way of posting pictures and seeing what your friends are up to. The repercussions of tagging and liking on Facebook are not always disastrous, but are more ways of developing a digital footprint.

It is unlikely that Facebook, Google and Twitter are using our information for some grand evil scheme. However, it is important to know exactly how and when your personal information is being used for advertising purposes.

If you want to see what Facebook is sharing in terms of your information, visit Zesty.ca and use their free tool to track Facebook’s public sharing. This PC World article also gives a great overview of understanding your Facebook privacy settings.

How do you protect your privacy in social media? Do you even care? Make some noise below.