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This chapter is from the book

If You’re Under 18

If you’re legally a minor—or if you have family members who are minors using Facebook—you need to pay extra attention, and give extra weight, to the security warnings and safety tips in this chapter.

The sobering reality is that people online are not always who they pretend to be, and predators do use the Internet to stalk and “groom” underage victims. Online bullying is also a sad reality, and people have been known to assume false identities for this purpose.

Facebook does its best to identify fake profiles and shut them down—and in fact has sometimes taken criticism for being too aggressive in its approach. But Facebook’s security team isn’t omniscient, and despite its efforts, fake profiles do get created and do get used for some dishonorable purposes.

In addition to the general security and safety tips shared elsewhere in this chapter, minors on Facebook should take these precautions:

  • Don’t post your address or phone number online, anywhere. Don’t trust Facebook’s privacy settings to limit access to them. Let e-mail be your first point of contact for anyone who doesn’t already have your number.
  • Don’t friend anyone you don’t already know and trust.
  • Make sure you familiarize yourself with Facebook’s privacy settings, and set them carefully. Check them every so often to make sure you’re still comfortable with the level of privacy you’ve chosen.
  • Don’t arrange to meet anyone offline for the first time without other people you know and trust being present and knowing in advance about the meeting.
  • Don’t feel obligated to post an actual photo of yourself as your main profile pic. Your profile picture can show up in all sorts of places on Facebook other than your profile itself (including search listings, Groups, third-party apps, and more), so it may be seen by people you aren’t friends with. Lots of people on Facebook use an avatar other than their own photo—such as an image of a pet, a favorite possession, or even an illustration—that says something about them but doesn’t compromise their privacy.
  • Block anyone who sends you inappropriate communications (see the info on how to block people earlier in this chapter) and report them to Facebook (see “Reporting Abuse”). And as Facebook says on its Safety page, “We strongly encourage users under the age of 18 to talk to their parents or a responsible adult immediately if someone online says or does something to make them feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way.”
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