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.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.