When I present my Generation Text Online Assembly Program in middle schools and high schools, I talk about Facebook. One of my goals is to help teens understand that certain actions they take online could hurt them or have a negative impact on their life. One of the areas that we talk about is the “info” page or what you might think of as a “profile page.”
I always begin the lessons by asking the audience of teens a lot of questions.
- What did you write for your name?
- What did you write for your birthday?
- How many Facebook friends do you have?
- Are you friends on Facebook with your parents?
Some kids have thought about the types of things that could keep them safe. It is extremely common to hear kids tell me they have “fibbed” when it comes to typing in their real name or real birthday.
Then I ask the kids about the section where Facebook asks for an email and a cell phone number.
- Who here has their email and cell phone on their info page?
- Did you type in the real email and number or a fake email and number?
- Does anyone see anything potentially wrong with making your personal email or cell phone number available on Facebook?
That last question usually gives me complete silence in a packed auditorium…
No matter whether I am in a suburban setting or urban setting, whether I am on the East Coast or on the West Coast, 80 percent of the kids raise their hands when I ask who has put their email and cell number on their info page.
This morning, I decided to do my own investigation among the kids I know personally to see if they are protecting their personal information. I logged into my Facebook page and spent over an hour clicking on my Facebook friends.
Almost every teen I clicked on was posting their personal email and cell phones on their “info” pages.
This should concern you! These teens are giving people a way to contact them directly! And for those of you, who think the “privacy settings” can’t be hacked into, please believe me, there is NOTHING private once you post it on Facebook.
Moms, Dads, Uncles, Aunts, Grandparents….This is how strange adults contact our kids. These strange adults are not approaching our kids as themselves; they typically contact our kids by pretending to be a kid. Once these strangers have one- on- one, private communication with our kids, they can begin to build a relationship with them. It happens all the time!
Here is my advice:
- Go to their Facebook account and click on their “info” page.
- Have they posted their personal email or cell phone number?
- Don’t freak out. Your reaction is important. It will effect their willingness to come to you in the future.
- Talk with your kids and tell them why this is so dangerous.
- Give them examples of HOW an adult might try to contact them.
I have included a screen shot of what this looks like so it is easy for you to find.
Next time you are driving a carpool, bring up the info page. Talk about what is safe and not safe to post on Facebook. Here is how my law enforcement friends word it so kids can understand. “Anything that your neighbor would know about you is OK to post on-line. For example: Your dog’s name, your mom’s name.”
Do you have a story to share about your kids and their friends on Facebook? Do you have a tip to share?
– Jill Brown