Parents & Teachers:
Facebook Online Website
Today, teens use the Internet more than ever and often in ways parents and other adults cannot comprehend. Many teens participate in what is called "social networking" in which they communicate and connect with people with similar interests and activities.
Most people have heard of Myspace – a Web site where you can design your own Web page and find the Web pages of your friends. Another extremely popular online community is Facebook.
The main difference between Facebook and Myspace is that Myspace users can design their own page and write the HTML – which is the coding language used to make Web sites – while Facebook users can just add, rearrange, or delete what is called the "plain text." In other words, Facebook users are confined to a uniform template whereas Myspace users can create original templates for their online Web profile page.
Facebook is the sixth most popular Web site in the United States. Facebook calls itself, "A social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study, and live around them."
As of the Summer of 2007, there are over thirty million users – with 150,000 new users signing up daily. One study shows that over 85% of college students use Facebook. Over half of Facebook users log in daily. What is it about Facebook that is so appealing to teens and young adults?
How does Facebook work?
Let's start with a little history. In February of 2004, a Harvard University sophomore named Mark Zuckerberg started a Website called "thefacebook" for Harvard undergraduates.
Within 30 days, over half of the undergrads had signed up. Soon, the Web site spread to other Ivy League colleges, and the name changed to simply "facebook."
In September of 2005, the Web site became available to high school users and other universities. Soon after, students around the world could register. Currently, anyone with an e-mail address can register.
On Facebook, users have their own online profile to which they can add photos, write notes on others' wall (the section on the profile for comments), find and add friends, join groups, and add many other applications – such as video and graffiti among many others.
When someone registers, they join a network or multiple networks. These can be local, such as one's own community, a local school's network, a business' network.
People on Facebook can join groups and users can create their own groups to connect to people with similar interests. Users can invite their friends to join and send reminders about upcoming events.
Facebook notifies users by e-mail about certain events based on the types of information users have chosen to receive. When someone logs in using their e-mail address and password, Facebook displays a customized home page that displays a News Feed – which is the recent history of the user's friends and their actions.
In the Summer of 2004, Facebook headquarters moved to Palo Alto, California – where the company now employs over 200 people.
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What safety precautions are available?
Many people have expressed concerns over the safety and privacy issues surrounding social networking sites. Only Facebook users' friends and people in their networks have access to viewing their profile.
Users can change their profile settings to create more privacy. There is the option of "hiding" a profile so that it does not show up in searches, as well as the option of making a profile only view-able to people with whom the user is friends, or to people in their network.
Users can also make parts of their profile view-able to specific people in what is called a Limited Profile. Users can block someone completely with whom they do not want to have an association.
Most adults did not grow up with the Internet and social networking sites, so the technological world teens live in can seem like a mystery. Many adults think that such Web sites can be dangerous and that teens could end up in situations with strangers that could potentially harm them.
For the most part, Facebook can be a safe way to stay connected as long as teens take special care to control their privacy.
Here are some tips that everyone, especially teens, should follow while using Facebook. Parents, we highly encourage you to have your teens read and follow these guidelines:
- Use the privacy settings Facebook offers.
- The settings are there to keep you safe while still allowing you to connect with the people you want.
- Make your profile view-able to only your friends, not everyone in your network.
- There is no need for people you do not know – but are still in the same network – to view your profile.
- If you are friends with someone, then they can see information about you.
- Don't post your last name; just use your last initial.
- People can search for you within a network and – if they know you – they will recognize you.
- They do not need to see your last name.
- Do not post anything inappropriate on your own profile or on someone else's profile.
- Even if you use the privacy settings, it does not mean all of your friends do.
- Delete inappropriate comments or wall posts on your profile.
- Alternatively, you can set your privacy settings to require you to approve all comments posted on your Wall.
- This way, any time your friends write something to you, you can screen the inappropriate comments out.
- Only accept or add people as friends that you know in person.
- Not everyone is the person they portray themselves as online.
- Do not post your address, phone number, or school schedule on your profile.
Overall, Facebook is not a bad thing. It can be a great way for your child to interact with people he or she has not seen in a while, communicate with friends, and share photos and other media while connecting with their community.
Just remember: Facebook can be safe if teens stay safe on the Internet and use their good judgment.
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