Parents of teenagers need to be aware of Facebook’s just announced privacy policy change that affects teenagers (i.e., ages 13 to 17).  On October 16th, Facebook announced a change in their privacy policy concerning the extent to which teenagers’ posts can and will be shared  (see, newsroom.fb.com; “Teens Now Start with “Friends” Privacy for New Accounts; Adding the Option to Share Publicly”).

As Vindu Goel explains in his excellent New York Times article, teenagers will now be able to post items on Facebook that can be seen by a wider public (www.nytimes.com; “Facebook Changes Privacy Policy for Teenagers”; October 16). Teenagers will now be able to turn on “Follow” so their public posts can be seen in other people’s News Feeds.

As explained in the Facebook announcement, and in Mr. Goel’s article, teenagers who choose “Public” in the audience selector will automatically get a reminder that by doing so, their post will be seen by anyone.   The Facebook announcement and Mr. Goel’s article both have a screen shot mockup of what this reminder will look like.  The screen shot mockup shows that teenagers will have the option to change the post’s privacy setting.  The Facebook blog has a second screen shot mockup that shows the follow-up reminder that will come up if the teenager has chosen the “Public” setting.  The follow-up reminder tells the teenage that picking “Public” means the post will be shared with people whom the teenager doesn’t know.

This is a significant change about which parents need to know — and which they will want to discuss with their teenagers who use Facebook. Teenagers might or might not fully understand what it means to have their posts published to a wide audience of people they don’t know — and people who might use the teen’s posts, or personal information, in ways the teen doesn’t like or want (either now or in the future).