Facebook’s Changing Ad Policies are Not Safe for Teens

It’s a strange and difficult time to be a parent, especially if you’re the parent of a digital native. It’s doubly difficult if you’re an analog adult without a digital parenting strategy.

FacebookOne problem that cannot be ignored is that the players keep changing the terms of the game. Take social media for example. Today, the Wall Street Journal is out with a scathing Facebook article on how the social media giant’s advertising tactics have changed of late, and how they are anything but safe for teens.

The article focuses on one main issue – that young users are being shown advertisements for adult products – from firearms to risqué adult employment opportunities. To be fair to Facebook, the network has over one billion users and over one million advertisers. There are bound to be some bumps in the road, but can parents keep up? As it turns out, even some advertisers can’t:

Some advertisers said Facebook’s targeting system has been a factor in their ads being shown to young teens. “It’s ridiculously complicated,” said Greg Carr, president of Desert Warrior Products, whose ad for AK-47 parts and accessories such as scopes reached young teens. Mr. Carr said he intended it only for those over 18.

The issues for parents:

Facebook has no age limit – That’s right, there is no real age limit for Facebook. The site’s rules state that you must be 13 to join, but there is no age-affirmation process. New users simply tell Facebook how old they are, and young users routinely lie about it.

Your child may be on Facebook without you knowing – All any internet savvy teen or pre teen needs to join Facebook is an internet connection and an email address. It could be a throwaway email address that you don’t know about. Just because your child hasn’t asked you for permission to open a Facebook account, doesn’t mean she hasn’t joined. You’d be well served to ask about it, or check her phone for yourself.

Once you’ve agreed to let your kids on Facebook, your responsibility has just begun – You need to be vigilant about who your child is communicating with and what content she is interacting with, including ads.

Adult-oriented ads aren’t the only problem – In addition to shifting advertising policies, Facebook has also been know to change its privacy policy and terms of use. Even if your teen initially sets up her profile in a “safe” manner, future changes may leave her open to advertisers using her content or stalkers and cyberbullies being able to contact her.

Despite headlines that teens are fleeing Facebook, a recent study indicated that 32% of kids in grades 4 – 6 have an account, whether their parents know about it or not. As a parent, you can ignore what your kids are doing online and hope for the best, or dig in and have real conversations about what she is doing, and whether it is safe and appropriate.


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

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