By Caitlin McGarry
Teens are getting bored of Facebook. There’s Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat—it’s really too much to manage all of those networks and not fail out of high school. But Facebook needs teens to stick around, and stickers just aren't cutting it. On Wednesday, the social behemoth gave them more options.
Now 13- to 17-year-olds can choose to post publicly. To protect teens’ privacy, Facebook has long prevented them from sharing status updates with the world at large. Their first posts were limited to friends of friends, and that’s about as large as their circle could get. If you’re a teenager posting on Facebook for the first time, the privacy setting is set to friends, but you can easily change the audience for future posts.
Facebook is also letting teens turn on the follow feature, so strangers who follow them on Facebook can see all posts set to public.
This move makes sense for Facebook. It’s competing with other networks that give teens the ability to live their lives out in the open. It doesn’t want to be seen as the nanny network.
“While only a small fraction of teens using Facebook might choose to post publicly, this update now gives them the chance to share more broadly, just like on other social media services,” Facebook said in a Wednesday blog post.
But there was a reason Facebook set limits for teens. The Internet can be an unfriendly place, especially for kids who are struggling with self-esteem issues. Sure, teens can choose to keep their privacy settings locked down, and Facebook will repeatedly ask them if they’re sure they want to post publicly.
Facebook double-checks to make sure teens want to post publicly.
“We take the safety of teens very seriously, so they will see an extra reminder before they can share publicly,” the company said.
But issues of teen privacy and online bullying are real concerns—ones that Facebook continues to confront. The social network operates on a much larger scale than its competitors, with billions of users, many of them under the age of 18. One thing’s for certain: Parents and privacy groups are making their displeasure known.