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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Facebook is a popular social-networking site (and app -- our review references key points relevant to both) where users connect with people of their choosing -- either privately or publicly -- and post pictures, text, or videos. Users also can watch videos, post and tag photos, share favorite product information, "like" favorite celebrities and social causes, live-stream video with Facebook Live, connect with goods and services, and live-chat via Messenger, an app that's integrated with Facebook. Budding game developers may also appreciate the chance to express themselves and share their creations through Facebook's downloadable gaming platform and/or the gaming section of the site.
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What's it about?
To sign up for FACEBOOK, you need to be at least 13 and have a valid email address. Once you have an account, you can "friend" other users whose posts will appear on your Timeline. Through the settings, you can choose to have your account accessible to everyone, only to friends, or a custom group. You can also select what personal information is shared with others, choose whether your profile is available via a Web search, and delete posts from your Activity Log. "Liking" a product or celebrity profile will make related posts appear on your Timeline -- and will fuel targeted advertising. Because others can "tag" you in their posts, it's possible to adjust settings around being tagged and approving those posts on your own Timeline. Parents can use tagging to create a Scrapbook of their kids' photos, and users can create secret groups that are undiscoverable without an invitation. Users with Windows 7 or later can download Facebook's developer-focused Gameroom desktop platform, introduced in 2016, to share and play games; in March 2019, Facebook began rolling out a new gaming tab in its main navigation bar, where users can watch gaming videos, find information about games, and connect with developer and other groups. In addition to posting on the site, users can use Facebook's Messenger app -- which is integrated into Facebook -- to chat with others. It's also possible to live-stream video and watch others' live streams. As of 2017, users can choose to only share a live stream with friends or use "Live With" which allows two users to stream jointly from two different accounts using a picture-in-picture format. Videos will be posted on the user’s page or profile after they’re finished; users can select who’ll see the video before or after it’s done. If you go live, you can also use a feature called Lip Sync Live to choose from the available songs, lip sync, and even add someone else in the video. Creators can make games shows like HQ Live Trivia Game Show via Facebook Live, where users can participate in real time to try to earn real money.
Is it any good?
As one of the biggest and most enduring social networks, this site and app have a number of aspects that users may find attractive -- including various ways to interact and stay in touch with acquaintances, ranging from responding to posts they make to text-based chatting and live video capabilities. But it's important to know the ins and outs before your teen starts posting. Though lots of teens are now only using Facebook as one of many methods of communicating, it's still relevant, continues to innovate, and keeps adding more features, like Facebook Dating. In recent years, gaming has been a focus; the site added a desktop gaming platform a few years ago, and as of spring 2019 was in the process of introducing a dedicated gaming tab. It can be difficult to keep up with all of Facebook's acquisitions and new capabilities, so it's a good idea to check settings periodically and have an account of your own to stay on top of things. As always, posting publicly, oversharing, and cyberbullying are concerns with social media, and with the addition of live-streaming in 2016, it's even more important to talk to teens about what's appropriate to share -- particularly because murder and suicide videos have been posted on the site in the past. Facebook has also come under criticism recently for allowing false information to be shared as news; the site says it's cracking down on its use, but it's possible teens could come across some.
Users will see ads as they scroll through their newsfeed that are chosen based on posts they make and other factors; you can click on the corner of an ad for an explanation of why you're seeing it, and opt to hide all ads from that advertiser, but you can't completely block ads from being shown. Other potential concerns include reports that some users have noted they couldn't delete the app from their phones, meaning it could be impossible to rid a device of the social network, if someone wants to. Also, since so many parents use Facebook, it's worth thinking about the digital footprint you're creating for your kid; in fact, many kids don't want endless pictures and videos of themselves shared with the world -- so be sensitive to the information trail you're leaving for your child.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how to responsibly use social-networking sites -- and how to react if someone (even a good friend) posts something inappropriate on your Timeline. (Parents should get up to speed on Facebook so they have a sense of what kids are doing on it.)
Discuss privacy settings. Because Facebook makes frequent changes, it's a good idea to sit down with your teen for periodic profile reviews. Pay close attention to the privacy settings and which posts, photos, and personal information are visible and to whom.
Use the information in the Youth Portal to talk with your teen about how to use this -- and other -- social networking sites and apps safely and responsibly.
- Subjects: Social Studies: global awareness
- Skills: Communication: conveying messages effectively, multiple forms of expression
Collaboration: respecting other viewpoints
Responsibility & Ethics: following codes of conduct, making wise decisions, respect for others
Tech Skills: social media
- Genre: Social Networking
- Pricing structure: Free
- Last updated: July 29, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love hanging out online
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.