Status updates are one of the most intriguing parts of Facebook. Since updating the Facebook status is the first thing many people do when they have a second on their computer or mobile device, it is the first thing many people look at when they want to see what is happening with their friends. The convenience of this system for personal updates is excellent, but as with most aspects of social networks, there is reason to proceed with caution. Here are a few rules for both you and your teen to keep in mind when updating your Facebook status with your latest exploits:
- Remember who can see your page. Before clicking the “share” button on your latest status message, think about how people from various groups in your life would view your status message. The various groups of people in your life–extended family, co-workers, close friends–will likely all have differing perspectives on things. For example, something that might be hilarious to one group may incredibly offensive to another. While you may have specific people in mind when posting a status update, always remember that Facebook will not automatically know which people probably shouldn’t see what you’re posting.
- Nothing on Facebook is 100% guaranteed private. Tweaking your privacy settings so that only friends can see your status updates is a great step to being safe online, but it is not airtight. This is because if your friends can see your status updates on their screen, there is no way for you to control who else is viewing them. For example, their friends could be sitting next to them while they view your profile, or they could accidentally leave their Facebook logged in after they leave a computer lab or electronics store. There are many opportunities for the content of your Facebook page to be seen by someone else besides your Facebook friends.
- Put thought into your status updates. Don’t just update your status with the first thought that comes to your mind. There have been many cases where people posted information that is seemingly harmless, but affected them in a very harsh way. For example, there have been cases of people having their houses robbed while away on vacation, because they updated Facebook with their plans, allowing burglars to take advantage of the opportunity. Many problems can be avoided just by pausing for a few seconds to think about what you want to broadcast to the world.
A great rule of thumb is to only share things on Facebook that you would be okay with virtually anyone seeing. This way, there is no possibility of being embarrassed, have your reputation damaged, or come into harms way over a string of words about how you felt at one point in time. These tips are especially important to share with your child, as many teens feel that Facebook is just another place where they hang out with their friends. The good thing is, a little bit of knowledge about the reality of Facebook’s open nature can go a long way. Outside of a little thought, there is not much stopping your teen, or even you, from avoiding pitfalls caused by status updates.