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Facebook

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Huge social site connects, serves ads; check settings.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids 13 and older can learn how to communicate with each other online, keep in touch with friends, and express themselves. Teens also can learn basic information about nonprofit organizations and businesses since many of them have pages. Another plus: Facebook can help teens understand social networking, a skill that will put them in good stead for the future. Though, for the most part, there isn't much explicit educational material, kids and parents can use Facebook to practice digital citizenship and safely explore what it has to offer.

Positive messages

Users can click on a thumbs-up icon to "like" comments or pages. User-submitted content runs the gamut of uplifting to disturbing. As Facebook has expanded, it has managed to stay fairly benign, but predatory and unsavory users do exist.

Violence

User-created pages for topics such as crime-scene photos and photos of allegedly dying/deceased people exist, but the site itself doesn't generate violent content.

Sex

Users can post content (photos and language) with lots of sexual innuendo and more, but nudity isn't allowed, so most "naked" photos involve women in bikinis or lingerie. All sexual content is user-generated, though some ads contain models in underwear.

Language

Users frequently swear and sometimes bully each other, but there's no profanity inherent to the site itself.

Consumerism

Ads encourage users to shop at online stores, join dating sites, and "like" various pages to get free samples or other offers, but be aware that your action could be shown alongside the company's message -- and your profile may appear, too. Advertisers also use information about what you and your friends like to determine which ads you'll see when you're on the site.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Prohibits content that promotes the sale of tobacco, firearms, or alcohol-related content (unless they've set parameters to prevent users who are under 21 from seeing the content). Users can post alcohol references or photos on personal pages; some drug-related pages on legalizing marijuana and other topics also exist.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Facebook is a popular social-networking site (and app) where users connect with people of their choosing -- either privately or publicly -- and post pictures, text, or videos. Users also can play games, watch videos, decorate their pages, 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 is integrated with Facebook. Though the app itself doesn't generate iffy content (beyond underwear ads), users create plenty, so the content in a teen's feed is dependent on friends, and they can search for racy stuff -- and find it. Because the privacy settings are layered and change often, it's important for users to check their settings and make sure they are only sharing with their intended audience. Consult the privacy policy regularly to confirm the types of information collected and shared; it includes personal information being shared with advertisers.

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. In addition to posting, 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. In addition to social connection, users can access games, concert ticket, and on-demand services, like Uber. Facebook's personal assistant, "M"  -- similar to Siri or Cortana but with some human oversight -- is in beta testing as of 2016 and is designed to make recommendations, schedule services, and help make purchases.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

As one of the biggest and most enduring social networks, it has many elements that are attractive to users, 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 is still relevant, continues to innovate, and keeps adding more features. In fact, it's hard to keep up with its 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. Since so many parents use Facebook, it's also 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 creating for your kid.

Families can talk 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.

Website details

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

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byilenee. February 10, 2011

not a great idea.

I think that if you let your kids have a facebook, thats great and stuff, but you also have to think about the privacy and how much time they're going to spend on the computer. my friend has a facebook, and its insane how long she spends on there. its like her life is on facebook. i HAD one i DELETED it because i was addicted, and it really wasted my time. i got BULLIED on there, and my account kept getting hacked (i didn't share my password with n e one!) just recently, some kids at my school were bullying my other friend and making rude comments and pages that made her sad.. i don't think any child should go through that. i really think that you should think twice before letting kids on there.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Safety and privacy concerns
Kid, 12 years old March 26, 2011
I have Facebook - as do a lot of my friends. I understand why they have the set age of 13, but if you're 12 or even 11 for that matter, Facebook is fine! You should know the basics of online safety, though - such as not accepting friend requests from people you do not know. If you know that much, I think you can be on Facebook. But just remember: It's much easier to be mean online than in person. Don't do or say anything online you wouldn't say in person!
What other families should know
Too much consumerism
Great messages
Safety and privacy concerns
Kid, 11 years old October 31, 2009

You need to read this as it involves what you need to know

Safety is and not a problem. You can leash out information but as long as you keep only friends you know outside of the computer and block everyone else, it's fine. It does have an age limit of I think 14 but many people fake their age. Do not be fooled by celebritys, they are normal people pretending to be Miley Cyrus and Nick Jonas. They are posers. It is rarely you will find the real person. I say its safe for 11 and over but their not even meant to have an account so I would leave it until they are old enough to have an account. Once they are older enough to have one, just leave another couple of years until you are sure the responsible enough to have an account. Keep double checking their friends and information though as you never know who they could add. Keep them under your thumbs!
What other families should know
Safety and privacy concerns

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