Facebook Opens Up Teen Accounts to Public View

In an attempt to attract more advertisers who target the teen market, Facebook has decided to loosen the rules on posting by teens. Teenagers can now make posts that can be viewed by the public, in line with what other social networking sites like Twitter are already doing.

Jessica Guynn writes in the Los Angeles Times that analysts note that if Facebook does not stay competitive, it could lose some of its younger generation to other social networking sites. However, due to the nature of Facebook — which makes changes frequently — it is hard to imagine them to lose any market share due to lack of development.

Just like most changes to rules and structure of online businesses are driven by revenue, this one isn’t any different.

“This is about monetizing kids and teens,” said James Steyer, founder and chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit devoted to online privacy.

Aaron Everson, president of Shoutlet, a Madison, Wis., company that helps brands manage social-media campaigns, said Facebook wants to “compete against other networks that might have a younger demographic, and potentially help them reel in more advertisers.” Marketers will have to be creative in grabbing the Web-savvy teen’s attention without alienating parents, he added.

Facebook received criticism from the Federal Trade Commission just last month because of how aggressively it collects, processes and uses data from teenagers.

However, Facebook isn’t just on a crusade to make as much money as possible — they’ve responded by trying to address sensitive issues associated with their industry. They have added a pop-up warning which lets the user know that they will, in fact, be making a post that will be available to the wider public, which may make some teenagers think twice about the type of posts that they publish.

The new policy was put forward after a number of meetings between teenagers and Nicky Colaco, the manager of public policy and privacy for Facebook). The teenagers simply wanted the change made because they felt they had a right to be able to make posts that are viewable by the public.

Colaco says the idea was discussed with its Safety Advisory Board, which decided that the move would be empowering to teenagers and that the positives of the change are bigger than the negatives.

However, care has to be taken to make sure that the teenagers are properly educated on how to post so that they do not harm their online experience, and their lives in general.

Lizzie Deane, a 16-year-old student in Manchester, England, and a vocal advocate of teen access to social media, supports the change.

It’s important to educate teenagers about the pitfalls of posting publicly, she said. But “I can’t see a really valid reason for us not being able to do that,” she added. “We should have as much of a voice as adults.”