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•• Teens & Tweens on Facebook: Going “Public”

October 28, 2013

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With new rules announced last week about Facebook lifting restrictions for “public” accounts for teenagers, this mom has one thing to say…

“If Ask.fm jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”

I get it.  Teens and preteens are flocking to the unregulated, unapologetically unregulated websites that allow them to collect followers like they collect rubber band-loom bracelets.  I regularly see kids 11, 12, 13 begging for followers and allowing any stranger to follow them (and thus tag them, have access to their profiles, etc.).  But more than 5 million Facebook users are under the age of 13, which means they  already had to artificially inflate their age to log on to Facebook.  So getting rid of these privacy safeguards mean that young children — tweens and below — have the opportunity to promote themselves to strangers.

We’ve seen what can happen when children are given free reign on social media.  Ask.fm has taken significant heat for its Wild West approach and lack of oversight, and has been implicated in online bullying in several stories.

So now, today’s tweens and teens are creating their own brands online, like it or not.  As parents, we should be concerned what lingering effects these statements will have on our children’s future.  But as marketers, it offers a new opportunity to gain insight into what’s important, what’s relevant and what’s passé for this target demographic.

And if a 10-year-old can lie and say they’re 14 on their Facebook sign on, there’s really not much to prevent them from saying they’re 19, and thus able to access the public setting anyway.  Sure, Facebook does try to get rid of the underaged kids on the system, and bump thousands each year using their reporting mechanism.

Perhaps it’s a bit of a Pandora’s box…but this is the generation who has never been outside the social media circle.  We’ve taken a cue from them in everything from jargon to memes to app adoption.  It’s very likely they’ll be in the driver’s seat of social media before long.

 

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