Perhaps you've caught the news reports about the newest iteration of privacy settings on Facebook. For those who haven't heard the details, I'll point you to a few recaps so that you can learn about all of the latest news:

  • Facebook Blog - complete description of new changes
  • Mashable - overview of new privacy changes
  • CNN Tech - comparison of Facebook and Google + privacy matters

I'm not going to review all of the details of the changes - the links above will give you more than enough information on that to equip yourself as we see the updates roll out over the next few days. My goal here is simply to remind myself -- and perhaps you as well -- that part of my job as a parent of teens in today's digital age is to help them stay abreast of healthy and knowledgeable use of social networking tools.

Let me say up front that not every family will choose to permit their minor children to use Facebook or other social media sites. That is a family decision best made with your own conscience and knowledge of your children. But in the event that we do give our kids access to these tools, our job is to train them to use the tools in a safe, wise and conscientious fashion.

So with these new changes, the one thing that immediately struck me is the "inline controls" for sharing (again, see the first link above for a full description of that). While many parents will think that looking at their child's "wall" will be sufficient supervision if the parent is "friends" with her child on Facebook. With this new option, Facebook users (like your child) have the ability to target their post to groups or individuals (or one individual) -- in other words, Mom may look at Johnny's wall and see new posts, and Johnny's friends may look at the same wall and see the same posts plus more or less. Johnny's girlfriend may look at the wall and see a post destined just for her that Mom's eyes won't see. This type of private communication has long been available to Facebook users with the "message" and chat features, but new privacy settings fundamentally change the "wall", which has been a main feature of Facebook since its inception.

So how does this change the way we help our teens to use Facebook? I simply want to be aware of the latest settings, to use them myself, to continually speak with my teens about protecting themselves -- their identity, their safety, and their souls -- when using Facebook. I own the passwords to my minors' accounts and do regular "check ins" where I log into their account. They know that I do this -- it's part of our agreement in giving them the privilege of being on Facebook. And my daily supervision of their profiles will continue, but I'll know now that taking a quick glance at their Wall won't always paint the full picture. So our conversations, and this mom's prayers for her boys, will continue.

For parents looking for more concrete steps to take in supervising your children's use of Facebook, take a look at this article from Common Sense Media and also be sure to check out YourSphere's great tools for parents. I'd love to hear your thoughts on these changes and how you help your children make the most of social networking and specifically Facebook.