News  » Keeping Facebook Private

Last updated 12:28 PM on 21 February 2017

Facebook is a powerful social networking space. But for many parents who grew up squabbling with their siblings over access to the family phone it's a new frontier.

Messages, comments, conversations and photos which were once exchanged personally are simply posted for many to see. Just how many depends on your child's Facebook privacy settings and the lengths they've gone to build up lists of cyber friends.

Facebook is mostly a positive tool for social interaction, says Dr Kirsty Young, a specialist in education and social media at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Children under 13 years old are not permitted to register for Facebook.

However, Facebook gradually exposed more and more personal information on its pages. As public search functions and third parties were able to reveal that information, there was global debate over privacy, the on-selling of personal information by web companies and the potential for cyberbullying or stalking on social media pages.

Some Facebook users even launched Quit Facebook Day, commenting that "Facebook makes it damn difficult for the average user to understand or manage" their privacy settings.

After much bad press, in August 2011 Facebook made sharing and privacy options more visible, by introducing a dropdown menu on the Status and Wall pages. The best way to understand these new  functions is to read the Facebook Blog entry "Making it easier to share with who you want".

Five ways to help your child manage Facebook

  1. Start by signing up your own Facebook account, work out how to make a few friends and spend a couple of hours navigating your way around. In fact, why not start with the new School A to Z Facebook pages where you can tell us what information you need to help your child succeed at school.
  2. Find the privacy settings in the drop down menu by clicking on 'Account' in the top right hand corner on the page. Facebook organises privacy settings into 'Everyone', 'Friends of friends', 'Friends only' and 'Customise', which can restrict access to an individual or small group.
  3. Search for your child online yourself. You may find that their profile information including their name, photo, and a list of names and photos of all their friends can be accessed by anyone with a computer.
  4. Then, ask your child to show you how their privacy settings are configured and find out whether they understand them.
  5. Also ask them to show you how to block someone, how to refuse a friend request from a stranger and how to un-tag themselves from other people's photos; that is, take their searchable name off an image.

Read more on the Schools A to Z Website