Teens Haven’t Abandoned Facebook

Facebook logoFacebook is dead to us.”

Why teens are leaving Facebook: It’s “meaningless”.”

3 reasons young people think Facebook is lame.”

U.S. teens are deserting Facebook faster than ever.”

There have been no shortage of headlines and thought pieces over the last four years about Facebook being on death’s door with teens, and as the logic goes, on its way to obsolescence. Teen preference is viewed as an early indicator of what will be mainstream consumer behavior down the road, so if teens aren’t using Facebook now, surely they won’t be using it as adults.

In a piece that we wrote yesterday citing teen research by brokerage firm Piper Jaffray, we noted that teens do indeed prefer both Instagram and Snapchat to Facebook. That is true for the moment, and maybe will be true in the future, but there is data in the survey that paints an anything but grim picture for the future of Facebook.

The survey polled 10,000 teens – a very big sample – and the full survey results broke out responses by age. Percentage of teens who use Facebook:

  • 14-year olds – 34%
  • 15-year olds – 43%
  • 16-year olds – 54%
  • 17-year olds – 62%
  • 18-year olds – 62%

That trend is pretty clear: Older teens are more likely to use Facebook than younger teens. It probably wasn’t always true. Before Snapchat and Instagram existed, of course Facebook was probably number one with 14-year olds. It was the only show in town.

Today, Snapchat and Instagram are cooler, but older teens are indeed adopting Facebook. We touched on why that might be true back in April 2015. Here’s what we currently see happening that is driving later teen Facebook adoption, but adoption nonetheless:

“Sign in using Facebook” – this is the go to onboarding method for many apps, internet sites and messaging forums, many of which make logging in with Facebook the easiest or only login method. 54% of social sign ins are made using a Facebook account.

Dating – Facebook remains the easiest way to check out that cute girl you saw at a school dance or football game. If you like what you see online, or confirm that she doesn’t appear to have a boyfriend, sending a friend request is much less anxiety producing than asking them out on a date.

Facebook Messenger – Especially early on in a friendship, it is easier to add someone on Facebook then hit them up via Messenger than to ask for their phone number. Messenger is the preferred massaging app for lots of people.

Family – If a mom asks a teen, “Did you see the pictures of cousin Heather’s new baby?” she is probably referring to pictures posted on Facebook.

In early 2015, a Pew Research survey found that 71% of teens use Facebook. According to the data in the Piper Jaffray study, that number is now down to 52% 18 months later. That’s a big decline, but higher numbers for older teens indicate to us that Facebook, while slightly less dominant due to the number of cool alternatives, isn’t going away any time soon.

From Venture Capitalist Josh Elman:

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-9-45-27-am

Even if Facebook isn’t as cool as it was, it’s becoming something of a utility.

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Encryption Now Available for Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger EncryptionYou may have seen this week that Yahoo, owner of one of the world’s most popular email clients, has been accused of allegedly allowing U.S. intelligence officials to monitor the contents of all user email traffic. This is wrong, and Yahoo is taking considerable heat for it. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t be subjected to this type of undisclosed surveillance.

Facebook owns popular messaging app WhatsApp, which has had end-to-end encryption of messages as a standard feature since earlier this year. Clearly Facebook understands that the market wants this type of solution. Encryption is now available for Facebook Messenger, and users (you and your teens) should turn it on.

There’s one catch, though. You can’t have encryption always turned on for Facebook Messenger. You have to turn it on each time you start a conversation.

FB Messenger disappearing messagesTo utilize the feature, when you hit the button to compose a new message, look at the top right corner of the screen. You will see a blue button labeled “SECRET”. Tap on that and you will see the screen at right. The conversation will be fully encrypted once you hit send.

As an added bonus, Facebook has also added the ability to make the message disappear from the recipient’s phone a set number of seconds after it is opened. To set the time, tap on the clock at bottom right (green arrow). There is no word yet as to whether a copy of the message will be retained on Facebook servers or in the bowels of your phone.

Note: If a message that you’ve received is set to disappear, and it is abusive in nature, you can still report it.

We recommend making sure you have the latest update of Facebook Messenger installed, and using encryption on all of your messages starting today. It literally takes one extra tap. You aren’t just protecting your conversations from the government’s prying eyes, but from hackers as well.

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Facebook Introduces Lifestage Just For Teens

Facebook’s history of introducing successful standalone apps is not a good one, and in the case of its new Lifestage app, we hope that streak continues.

Lifestage is aimed squarely and solely at the high school crowd, and is yet another attempt to put a dent in Snapchat’s momentum. Lifestage is available only on iOS for now, and is a video resume for your friends and social life. Users create a profile, tell the app which high school they attend then create, according to a review at Mashable “videos to show off what they like and dislike and who their friends, pets, boyfriends and girlfriends are.”

If your teen is thinking about downloading Lifestage, for now this is all you need to know:

Lifestream

In case you can’t read that, the text is as follows:

“Everything you post in Lifestage is always public and viewable by everyone, inside and outside your school.

There is no way to limit the audience of your videos.

We can’t confirm that people who clam to go to a certain school actually go to that school.

All videos you upload to your profile and record are fully public content.”

If you’re at all worried about your teen having the option to keep some content private, this isn’t the app for her. If you’re worried about some creeper infiltrating the crowd at your local high school, ditto.

As for the risk of creepers, however, we tried to sign up but that part of the app worked as intended. When you sign up, you enter your age and phone number and if Lifestage believes you’re a high school student, they send you a confirmation text. In my case, Facebook knows my phone number (possibly via Instagram – I’ve avoided giving it to Facebook), so they denied my sign up, even though I lied about my age. I’ll try it this week with one of my teen’s phones and update this at that time.

The Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are not specific to Lifestage – they use Facebook’s – and as you probably know Facebook gives itself license to do just about anything with your data and content.

We’ll be watching this closely, but we’d advise teens to avoid this app for now.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

On Facebook, Your Crush May No Longer Be A Secret

When it comes to privacy, Facebook is having a rough week.

Facebook logoWe wrote yesterday about how Facebook appears to be making friend recommendations based on user location. If they are, and we think they are, that will put a number of users in an awkward position. It also is a betrayal of the trust that users put in Facebook to not overstep the privacy framework that each of us has in mind. That’s a tough line to draw though because we all have different ideas about what we “allow” Facebook to do with our data.

Facebook came out yesterday and denied that they are using location data to make friend recommendations, but it doesn’t look like anyone believes them.

Early this morning someone posted in the Facebook sub on Reddit that it appeared he was getting friend recommendations for people whose profiles he had viewed. Part of the comment has since been removed, but one commenter confirmed the claim based on his experience.

“Yes, it does. I clicked through to a Twitch streamer’s Facebook profile one time, and now it occasionally lists her as “People you may know.” We have no mutual friends, don’t live in the same country, and I haven’t even “Like’d” Twitch or any computer games.”

We obviously can’t confirm any of that but at least two people believe that viewing someone’s profile could be enough reason for Facebook to suggest that you friend that person. We wonder if it works the other way around.

If it does work the other way around, i.e. if you view someone’s Facebook profile, then that person might get a suggestion to add you as a friend, it is going to throw a monkey wrench into a ritual that probably happens hundreds of thousands of times per day. You see a cute boy or girl in class or at work and you don’t know much about him/her but you do know the name. You hop on Facebook to see the pictures or learn more about the person. It happens, a lot.

It is probably no coincidence that these two issues surfaced in the same week. It could be that Facebook is selectively testing ways to increase engagement, or possibly they are moving forward with wholesale changes to how they use our data.

We should be skeptical. From a related article at Forbes:

“All of this, as per the Facebook rulebook, is fine. It can change its privacy policy any time it likes. It can carry out tests as and when its teams of marketers and scientists want to play, without getting permission. It’s akin to living in a whole new country where you’re subject to the laws and mores drafted by invisible overlords who quietly govern the way you live, with the pretense that this is what you want and they know best.”

I’m prompted to add my phone number each time I log into Facebook “for my security”. They can’t have it. Skeptical.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Facebook Uses Phone Location to Recommend Friends

Facebook permission creep continues. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

Facebook logoA story from Fusion yesterday spells out pretty clearly the case for believing that Facebook is using your phone’s location to guess who your friends might be, and are using that info to make recommendations.

Most Facebook users who have given it some thought assume that Facebook recommends friends for you based on the fact that their phone number or email address are in your contacts. That is partly true, and Facebook did respond to the claims in the Fusion article (emphasis ours):

People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know. We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported and many other factors. Location information by itself doesn’t indicate that two people might be friends. That’s why location is only one of the factors we use to suggest people you may know.”

You can see that the Facebook spokesman stopped short of saying that they don’t use location to recommend friends. That language could mean that your location plus any other information (where you live, that you’ve been at that location multiple times, that you’re a Facebook user…) could be enough. It doesn’t cost facebook anything to make a recommendation.

The conclusion in the Fusion article is that Facebook might be doing it, and if you’re troubled by that you should turn off Facebook’s access to the GPS location service in your phone. That’s good advice but…

The article was posted in the Privacy sub at Reddit, which happens to be frequented by people who are experts on the topic – some of them appear to do privacy for a living, others are passionate about their personal provacy. One reader offered the following comment:

“They’ve been doing this for at least 2 years. I drove a mail route and it kept suggesting people on my route with no connections to me at all. Sometimes in the order of the route. This was 2 years ago.”

Facebook suggesting friends for you based on your location is in itself mostly harmless. You don’t have to act on the recommendation. What troubles us is that they’ve never explicitly told us that they’re doing it. By extension, we don’t know what else they are doing with our personal data.

As cool as it might be to Check In somewhere glamorous on Facebook, you might want to consider turning location off. We recommend it, especially for young users.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

What News Is Your Teen Reading?

More than 80% of teens get health news and information online. 61% of millennials cite Facebook as being their primary source of political news. It is no surprise that with teens spending so much time online, websites and social media are going to be where they get their news.

Facebook TrendingOne hot spot for finding out what people are talking about right now is Facebook’s Trending news section. If you’re familiar with how Facebook organizes what you see, you won’t be surprised at the fact that your feed, and the Trending section, are largely driven by algorithms – computer programs that rank and sort information. In the case of Trending, not exclusively though. Facebook employs journalist editors, and this week an article at Gizmodo revealed, after they interviewed several former (disgruntled?) Facebook news staffers, that:

“workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users… they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all.”

Facebook is free to do what they want, even as some journalists are calling for them to own up to the fact that they are a media outlet, and therefore should be fair and balanced. Facebook has denied the allegations. We don’t expect them to change how they drive advertising dollars any time soon, and don’t expect Fox News or CNN to change either.

Back to what your teens are reading, and where they are getting their news… We don’t know for sure how aggressively Facebook is deciding which “news” users see, but your teens should be aware that they might be doing just that. We’d rather teens decide for themselves what is important, and not leave things to an algorithm or a human, potentially biased editor.

In the same way that it is important for young internet users to recognize and ad when they see one, it is important for them to be critical of any information that might be biased, of information sources that control what you see.

 

 

The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

Facebook Drug Ring is a Warning to Parents

A Colorado investigator sent a strong message to parents this week in a way that we haven’t exactly seen before.

The story started with a 15-year old Jefferson County teen who had been suspended from school for problems including a “serious drug problem. The mother of the girl, who could be nominated for Digital Parent of the Year (not a real reward but it should be), had done enough digging into the girl’s smartphone that she was able to discover that the teen was a member of a secret drug trafficking group on Facebook. She reported it to the police and the Jefferson Child Sex Offender Internet Investigations unit got busy.

Colorado Facebook drug ringThe investigators found that the Facebook group, Fly Society 420, had over 900 members, and 171 of them were local middle and high school students, some as young as 12-years old. The group had facilitated sales of not just marijuana (420, legal in Colorado but not for minors), but also LSD, cocaine, prescription drugs and Ecstasy.

The investigators arrested the admin of the group, an adult, and contacted Facebook to have the group shut down. The group is gone and none of the minors were arrested.

Next, investigators issued a very strong message to parents, saying that parents have to take their teens’ phones, log into Facebook, and see which groups they belong to. Investigator Mike Harris said:

“It’s harder when you have high school kids. They don’t want to give up that freedom, but I call it parenting. All you need to do is take the wrong kind of drug and quantity and we could have a dead kid.”

If your teen is looking to buy drugs online, or find someone online who sells them, it’s not just Facebook that’s the problem. Actually, Facebook does a pretty good job of policing drug sales. You can find then using the right hashtags on Instagram or Tumblr, you can find a dealer on Tinder or can get hooked up via a messaging app if you ask the right friend.

It’s impossible for parents of teens with unrestricted internet access to know everything that’s going on but it’s worth making an effort to know most of what is happening. If you need help figuring out what is going on, the ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Control the Ads Your Child is Seeing Online

For the most part, the internet doesn’t know how old your child is. That’s mostly a good thing. If a predator or some other person up to no good is looking for an “internet user” who is a child or teen of a certain age, you don’t want your child to be found.

Internet advertisers also want very much to know how old your child is, and they have some tools at their disposal. Targeted ads, by age or any other data available, are much more efficient for advertisers. They will use whatever information is at hand to get to their desired target audience.

When it comes to legitimate advertisers, it’s mostly good if they know approximately how old your kids are in one specific way. You’d rather not have your child seeing ads for alcohol and other adult products.

All that being said, if advertisers are guessing which ads your kids should see, or have determined that your child is an adult based on her internet activity, there is help available.

Facebook and Google, tow of the biggest internet advertising platforms in existence, make it fairly easy to help your child control which type of ads she sees.

Here’s how to control which ads Google and YouTube show you:

Here are the categories that Google thinks I’m interested in:

Google ad settings

You can find yours by CLICKING HERE (make sure you are logged into Google). If you don’t want ads on a certain category you can uncheck the box, and the change is saved automatically.

According to Google the list is compiled based on my Google search history, my YouTube video viewing history but not my Gmail history. Gmail ads are served by a different platform.

At the bottom of that page, there is a button labeled “Control Signed Out Ads”. If you click on that, you have the option to turn off interest-based ads on Google sites and off. For children and teens, we don’t recommending turning that off, because your kid is still going to see ads, but the chances will increase she will be exposed to adult ads.

Here’s how to control which ads Facebook shows you:

Below is a screen shot of the ad categories that Facebook has chosen for me. You can see yours by CLICKING HERE while you’re logged into Facebook.

Facebook ad preferences

For each category, you can click it and a list of subcategories will appear. You can unclick any that are inappropriate or that you don’t care about.

By the way, Facebook collects a whole lot of information about you, and they’re free to use it. For example, If you “Like” Starbucks on Facebook, they could take one of your photos and put it in a Starbucks ad. I turned off that setting by CLICKING HERE. (see below)
Facebook ads social actions
 

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?: The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Facebook Tip Jar Could Be Bad News for Teens

Facebook logoHere’s a scenario that can’t happen in real life. Yet.

  1. Cute teen posts selfie to Facebook
  2. Random Facebook user clicks a button and send that teen $10
  3. Teen is pleased to have $10
  4. Random Facebook user sends teen a friend request
  5. ????

There are a few ways for an individual to make money on Facebook. The most obvious is selling stuff. Others exist but they’re pretty difficult to put into action.

A very good article at The Verge yesterday highlights a new development that could spell trouble for some young users – Facebook is considering more monetization options, including a “Tip Jar”.

It turns out the some users (verified users, i.e. having the blue check mark as a confirmed public figure) were sent a survey about how they use Facebook, and included was a section asking them about options to earn money from the platform.

Facebook tip jar
Source: The Verge

Options (pictured at right) include a tip jar, branded content, sponsor marketplace (sponsors pay users to post content), a donate button (to a cause favored by the author), call to action button (buy this thing I just posted on FB now), and revenue sharing of Facebook ads.

There are lots of journalists, authors, fan fiction writers and artists putting compelling content on Facebook, and we don’t see a problem with them being able to share in the riches. In fact, it should have happened by now.

We do think for teen users (and even younger users who skirt the age guidelines to join Facebook), a tip jar could be a problem in the way that kids who want to be YouTube famous encounter problems. Exposure to predators and being asked by viewers to perform in suggestive videos are things that can and do happen on YouTube. Young users may lack the judgment necessary to avoid dangerous situations.

Imagine a young Facebook user who is making money by posting photos. What is to keep a “customer” for asking for more pictures, or different pictures, perhaps by private message?

Since the survey appears to have been sent to verified users only, there’s no word if a monetization plan would be extended to average, or average younger users. We hope it won’t be.

We’re tempted to say that we would be okay with this if it were only offered to users 18 or older, but that won’t work either. As good as Facebook is at enforcing its community guidelines, it has no way of keeping under-13 users from joining, and has no way of knowing if a user is 19 or 14.

Much like Facebook’s rumored “dislike” button went in a very different direction, this might never see the light of day. We say no to the tip jar.

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?: The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

How Many Social Media Friends Should You Have?

A new study published by the UK’s Royal Society indicates that there may be lots of issues with having too many social media friends.
The study titled “Do online social media cut through the constraints that limit the size of offline social networks?” challenges the idea that active use of social media can enable children and teens to grow their circle of friends in a constructive way beyond what would be possible using on real world contacts. The study used adult data to draw conclusions about the teen experience.
The answer, it appears, is “no”.

Many teens, and to a lesser extent pre teens (who are less likely to be active on social media), appear to be operating under the assumption that more (online) friends is better. A study by Pew Research found that among teens who use Facebook:Pew-Research-Facebook

  • 71% have more than 150 Facebook friends
  • 44% have more than 300 friends
  • 20% have more than 600 friends

We call the last group “Facebook Friend Collectors”. From what we’ve seen, the data for Instagram are similar, and in many cases the number of followers is bigger.

The Royal Society study concludes that while it is possible to have more friends by using social media effectively, it is probably not possible to have more high quality friends. We’re not talking about the quality of the person, but rather the quality of the relationship. The reasons:

  • The younger the social media user, the worse that person is likely to be at judging other people. Nonexistent, superficial or downright bad friendships can result
  • There is a natural limit, online and offline, to how many people you can actively keep up interactions with

In order to consider the teen implications, the study polled over 3,300 adult Facebook users and found that on average, they had around 170 friends. When asked how many of those were close or genuine friends, respondents offered that around 27% were close friends.

It seems likely that many teen friend collectors are not really accomplishing anything. In addition, there is a downside to admitting friends to your network who are not real friends:

  • You’ve granted them access to send you private messages, and there’s the possibility that they’re a cyberbully
  • There’s a chance that they share something you’ve posted (possibly from your private account) that casts you in a bad light
  • A casual observer might conclude that since you’re online friends, you somehow support their views and posts

We consistently advise parents to encourage teens to keep a small, well-curated group of online friends. It prevents needless effort and helps steer clear of some unfortunate situations. That extra Like isn’t worth it.

 

 

NEW: For a limited time the ThirdParent audit is FREE (normally $49). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.