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How Facebook’s new privacy policy for teens affects your Scouts, Venturers

For your Scouts and Venturers on Facebook, the reminder to “think before you post” just got a lot more important.

Yesterday we learned that Facebook has changed its privacy policies for users age 13 to 17, a move with real implications for the social media users in your troop, post, ship, team or crew.

There are two changes you as a Scout leader should be aware of.

1. Change to default audience

The first change switches the default audience setting for posts by users age 13 to 17. Until yesterday, it was “Friends of Friends” for new users when they sign up for an account; now it’s the more limited “Friends.”

That makes the initial audience of a new user’s post much narrower, which is generally a good thing. It means that what the teens in your unit share is only seen by people they have personally approved as their friends. (Though that brings up another point that they should only “Friend” people they actually know in real life.)

2. Option to post publicly

The somewhat controversial second change allows teens to choose to make their posts completely public. In defending this move, Facebook writes: “Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard. So, starting today, people aged 13 through 17 will also have the choice to post publicly on Facebook.”

So they technically can, but should they? That’s up to parents to decide in a discussion with their teens. Remind teens that everything they post, whether it’s marked “Public” or not, could be seen by anyone. So sharing their address, phone number, birthday or other sensitive information is a no-no.

As a Scout leader, you should consider reminding teens that publicly posting specifics about an upcoming troop trip or crew campout could subject them and others to harm. Think twice before posting something like, “Can’t wait to head out to Big Bend National Park next week — will be gone till Saturday!” Does that teen really want the world to know he or she will be away from home all week?

It won’t be long before the teenagers in your unit apply for college or try to get a job. And you can bet today’s college admissions counselors and hiring supervisors will type that teen’s name into Facebook and Google. What will they find?

The BSA’s Social Media Guidelines

The Boy Scouts of America has already outlined some guidelines for using social media at the unit level. They’re comprehensive and useful. You can read those here, but if you only remember one sentence, make it this one: “Before posting any content on any social media channel, you should first ask yourself if that content is in keeping with the precepts of the Scout Oath and Law.”

NetSmartz Social Networking Tips

The BSA and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have teamed up to keep kids safe, and NCMEC offers some excellent discussion starters and tips, all available here on its NetSmartz site.

You Tell Me

What do you tell your Scouts and Venturers when it comes to using Facebook and other forms of social media? Leave some suggestions below.

16 thoughts on “How Facebook’s new privacy policy for teens affects your Scouts, Venturers

  1. As to this facebook issue all rules should also be in forced to scout leaders also and they do not! The BSA do not do anything to scout leaders that post harmful false statements about a parent of a scout. It is frustrating you have this topic and yet I spent three months dealing with this issue and the end result is BSA stand is they do not get involved in facebook statements by adult leaders. I have not been to a scout activity now since march and my son asked me all of the time why I do not go.

    • So tell everyone the guy is a liar and move on. No, it’s not BSA’s job to referee every piddly online poopoo between grownups.
      If the guy made a serious libel about you and no one in your troop seems to care, then find another troop where the leaders aren’t jerks.

      • 1. My sons Cub Scout pack has a facebook site that many of the parents are on.
        2. Ex wives and ex husbands can make statements about their ex to all of the other parents and leaders and since it is between adults it is not a issue with BSA trust me on this. Comments like moron, crazy etc..
        3. I hope someday BSA will review this policy so other people in scouting do not have this happen to them.

        • Clarkgreen you still do not understand a adult scout leader can make a statement about anyone on facebook and it is no issue with the BSA so if a parent wants to post a statement like you are XYZX person that is fine according to BSA even if that statement is false and also causes that person a lot of harm in many aspects of his or hers life. The scout oath and law does not have anything to do with it. However in one of my interviews on the radio I was told different counsels have different polices on this issue. What happened to me would have never been allowed to happen in an adjacent district. All I hope is that another parent never has to go thru the torment I had to go thru on this.

        • It’s a very easy solution, have the Pack draft a code of conduct for posting on the Pack’s Wall. Those who violate the rules get booted. Frankly, if this is the worst problem that occurs on Facebook related to Scouting, consider yourself lucky. It’s not the BSA’s job to serve as the “hurt feelings” police or moderate unit’s pages when Adults are unwilling to confront he said/she said commentary and inappropriate comments. Pull the parties together, have a difficult conversation and if doesn’t work, remove them from being able to post.

        • Why doesn’t someone just change the settings of the group so that posts need to be APPROVED? If it’s not based on issues with the pack – why is it even out there? If I wanted drama, I’d watch a soap opera.

  2. I don’t see why Troops would use FB to begin with. A person has to be 13 to sign up, but Boy Scouts are as young as 10, so you either can’t communicate with those boys, or you’re encouraging them in breaking the rules. Websites with calendars and photo albums are easy to make from packages ranging from Troop Web Host to WordPress, and unlike Facebook there’s no concern with Scouts’ names being public (BSA’s guidelines require FB pages and therefore tagged photos to be public) or private convos between adults/youth.
    Anyway, less and less teens are using FB lately precisely because it has become inundated with the people they go online to get away from (adults), so its usefulness in communicating/coordinating with youth is waning.

    • I totally agree with you and this is the main reason that our Troop isn’t on FB. We are a younger Troop, only 3 yrs old, and so most of our scouts are younger and many aren’t old enough to have FB pages, but lots do anyway. I am the Committee Chair and I am getting pressured by some of the adult leaders to have a FB page for the Troop, but I prefer that the boys and parents use the TroopWebHost page that we pay for. This is the way that our troop will operate.

  3. I also had a problem with a scout leader in our pack. He would talk about his ex wife in front of the other members…some of the other leaders did not have an issue with it so we found a new pack and we are very happy. I can see bills point since that scouts mother would sometimes come to events. I always felt bad for her that people in the pack joked about her behind her back. Glad we left that pack I never made an official complaint. I think this may happen more than BSA would like to admit to.

    • Tina, who confronted the leader about his comments? Was the leader pulled aside and told that his comments weren’t well received among the other leaders let alone the kids? It’s not the BSA’s job to manage this kind of behavior. It should be done within the unit. In my experience, the trouble is that most people are non-confrontational and want to pass the buck to someone else. If the leader is being belligerent or hostile when someone tries to discuss the matter with him, have someone from the chartering organization meet with him. Unfortunately in Scouting, like in life, people talk about others behind their backs. It happens. But there are steps that can be taken to mitigate these behaviors.

  4. Hi My Troop as well as our Pack has Facebook pages, they have been good to us matter of fact we get a lot on new scouts coming to our Troop and pack because they see we are doing things. We also have a scoutlander free web site which is the best we have our open site for public then we have our private stuff on the closed side. It has a good email system, and calendar , If i can recommend and you don’t want to use face book i highly recommend Scoutlander they have free web sites for Boy Scout Troops, Cub Scout Packs and Girl Scouts. We also have each parents as well as leader sign a copy of the BSA media rules and we have our own in our by laws.

  5. Check out Sgrouples.com The World’s Private Social Network. Started by privacy expert and advocate Mark Weinstein.
    It’s like Facebook, except your own your content and get to choose who sees what.

  6. I have a question. I became Committee Chair of a Cub Scout Pack. First, we have a Facebook Page of the Cub Pack that was established before I got here. The administrators are the ones who can censor posts. There is a “public” site to give info on Pack events. However, in order to “like” us, you join a “Parents of Pack ___” group is a “private” side (not open to public). This is like a “members only” portion of site. The Scouts are never identified and no personal info is disclosed other than a pic (usually group shots.)
    I read within the guidelines that “all communication must (not should) be public and that flows through it must (not should) be public. I wonder if we are contrary to BSA in this matter? The whole point of having a “private” side was to make any pics public and we thought it was a greater barrier for Scout safety.

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