Amanda Todd. Rehtaeh Parsons. Cyberbullying. Facebook. My knee jerk reaction is questioning whether my child (currently 5-years-old) or any other child should ever have a Facebook account. The reality? Millions of children in Canada and around the world do – some younger than age 13, Facebook’s minimum age to sign up for an account. But are they safe? Is anyone?
I was recently invited to attend a round table meeting with Facebook’s Brooke Oberwetter and learned that despite or perhaps because of the tragic stories we keep hearing about in the news, Facebook is taking some steps behind the scenes to help keep teens safe online.
I learned that there are specific privacy settings and reporting tools available for teens on Facebook. Parents take note: make sure your 13 – 17 year-old is using their real age if he/she is going to sign up because accounts for this age range have a default privacy setting of friends of friends. This is a good safety feature that I personally feel should be the default setting for everyone. My personal setting is for friends which is the highest privacy level. Note: Effective October 2013, the default setting for age 13-17 is now changed to Friends. However, there is now an option which didn’t exist before for teens to share their posts publicly.
I am sure that I am not alone in saying that although my overall experience on Facebook has been positive, I have had some bad experiences. I have been on the receiving end of some rude and judgmental remarks, have received random friend requests from strangers, and even felt like I was being cyberbullied earlier this year when a Facebook friend enlisted the support of other friends in taking sides in a personal disagreement. At this point in my life, I am able to let these things mostly roll off my back although it was still hurtful. But if this had happened to me in high school I would have been devastated and probably would have been ostracized at school – a form of bullying.
The choices in a cyberbullying situation on Facebook include unfriending or hiding that person’s posts from your feed, reporting/blocking that person and reviewing/changing your privacy settings – all valid options.
When you come across a post or photo that offends, frightens or harasses you, report it. Click on the little down arrow on the upper right side of the post if it is on your wall and you will get an option to report/mark as spam. On your news feed, click on the down arrow and select I don’t want to see this to hide and/or report any issues.
Here are some examples of what you will see:
Reporting options for users 18+
Now check out what teen Facebook users will see, age 13-17:
Facebook has been working on what they call social reporting to help teens better describe the level of risk in the situations they are reporting and to encourage them to get help. Here is another example:
Blocking and/or getting help in dealing with a cyberbullying situation, age 13-17:
When something is reported, it is assigned a level of risk and will be assessed at some point by Facebook staff who work around the clock; however, if someone is in danger because of a cyberbullying situation get help immediately whether it is calling 911, a youth crisis line, a friend or another authority figure.
To access your privacy settings click on the small gear lock in the top right hand corner of your Facebook page. This will guide you through reviewing or changing your privacy settings and lets you see your profile the way others do. You can also review and/or change anything you have posted or been tagged in on your activity log. This is particularly important now that Facebook is launching Graph Search where your information, even pages you have liked, may pop up in search results.
Protecting your privacy and being safe online is something that should be a conscious choice:
- Educate yourself and sit down with your children to talk to them about the dangers of the internet, bullying and cyberbullying, reporting, privacy issues, safety and being kind online.
- If your child is on Facebook, make sure you are on there with them as Facebook friends and that you are monitoring their interactions on a regular basis and following up as issues arise.
- Use your common sense and make sure you and your children don’t post every detail of your lives on social networking sites including your address, phone number, birth date, and your current location.
- Be aware of how your mobile devices interact with Facebook. Some mobile devices are set to automatically add a location on your Facebook posts. For example, on the iPhone, you can turn off location services for Facebook entirely by going to Settings > Location Services, and turning it off for Facebook.
- Don’t tell anyone your Facebook password.
- Check your privacy settings on Facebook and other social networking sites. I checked mine after the round table and was surprised at some of the settings on my personal page even though I have always been very concerned about personal privacy and safety.
- Report inappropriate posts and photos. If you are being cyberbullied, maybe you are not the only one so take action.
- Don’t be a silent bystander – speak up for others when you see inappropriate posts or photos on social networking sites.
And as for my five-year-old? He is much too young for me to have to decide if he will ever be on Facebook. What will you do?
Facebook’s Family Safety Centre – https://www.facebook.
The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander: From Preschool to Highschool – How Parents and Teachers can help Break the Cycle by Barbara Coloroso or reference this handout
Erase Bullying Website http://erasebullying.ca (BC)
Be Bold Stop Bullying Canada Page – https://www.facebook.
StopBullying.gov http://www.stopbullying.gov (USA)
Youth Crisis Lines:
- 1-800-668-6868 – Kids Help Phone (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across Canada)
- 1-866-661-3311 – Youth in BC is an online crisis service, where you can chat 1-on-1 with a trained volunteer 24 hours a day (BC).
- 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) – available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (BC only)
- (877) 968-8454 …..1-877-YOUTHLINE teen to teen peer counseling hotline (USA)
- 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)
Facebook Help Centre – https://www.facebook.
Facebook Safety Page – https://www.facebook.