If your teen has done a good job keeping his personal information off of his Facebook profile, which we highly recommend, the new “Ask” feature may make it a little more difficult to keep the private things that way.
By using the new ask option, any of your son’s friends can ask for information that is not provided in his profile, including contact information, work, school, location, hometown and relationship status. This is not entirely new, except for the relationship status part, which is.
From a high level, this is not a horrible feature. It will allow your teen to selectively share information rather than broadcasting it, which is a good idea, especially if your teen is a Facebook friend collector.
The fact that there appears to be demand in the market for this feature, as it applies to the relationship status question, reveals a truth about Facebook – many users see Facebook as a means to stalk potential love interests. That’s just the reality, as in “Hey, she’s cute. I wonder what her story is.”
How could ask be negative for your teen? First, if your teen has avoided posting personal details online, that was probably a thoughtful decision. Sharing more personal info in response to a request could be an impulsive one, or one driven by peer pressure.
Second, even if you share your location, school or other information privately, you are also giving that information to Facebook for use in advertising. According to an article at Mashable this week:
A user’s relationship status can also be of use to marketers that target products or services to certain demographics. By answering an “ask” request, a Facebook member is telling the site their status (even if it’s not visible to the public) and in turn, giving the company that personal data.
Again, this new feature isn’t the worst thing in the world, but parents can use it as springboard to a discussion about privacy settings and the importance of not divulging too much personal information online.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.