What is Facebook?
Facebook is one of today's most popular social networking sites. Creating a Facebook account allows you to create a personal page similar to a blog. Once you have set up this "profile" page, you can continue to add pictures, videos, and typed messages onto your page for others to see.
You can choose who can and cannot view your profile. If you set your profile to "private" then only the people who you have added as friends have access to your information. If you do not make your profile "private" then anybody can have access to your information. To become someone's Facebook friend, you must send a friend request to that person and wait for them to accept the request (or the other way around—someone may request that you add them as a friend and will only be granted access to your page when you confirm him or her as a friend).12
Facebook started out as the plaything of former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg. The original project, launched in 2003, was called "Facemash" and actually got him into a bit of trouble. He liked the idea of "facebooks," or directories accompanied by photographs, and hacked into protected areas of Harvard's network to obtain photos of several dormitories of Harvard students. Viewers of his site could then view two photos at a time and rate one as "hotter" than the other. Within a few days, Harvard had shut down the website and charged Zuckerberg with various offenses related to privacy violation. 3
These charges were ultimately dropped, and Zuckerberg came back with a variation of the project the following semester. Located at thefacebook.com, his new site was designed to be a "universal facebook" for students of Harvard college. The site gained rapid popularity and was quickly expanded to include other colleges in the Boston area. Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum, and Chris Hughes, some of Zuckerberg's fellow students, got on board as the project continued to expand. 4 Facebook was then extended to most universities in North America, then to high schools, and finally, to all individuals over thirteen years of age. Facebook as we now know it was launched in February of 2004. 5 6 Once adults no longer in college were permitted to access Facebook, many have shown what is known as "Facebook Fatigue."
Facebook is currently headquartered in Palo Alto, California. In late 2008, Facebook announced the forthcoming set-up of international Facebook headquarters in Dublin.7
Facebook as a Verb
The word "facebook" has come to be used as a verb. If someone is facebooking, they are on the site.
A recent addition to Facebook is the Timeline. This new profile design turns your Facebook wall into exactly what it says: a timeline of your life. It allows the viewers of your profile to look at any and all of your Facebook activity since the beginning of your Facebook usage. The idea behind this was to allow people to easily see not only the small events of your day-to-day life, but also your larger and more important events. 8The layout of the Timeline is drastically different from the original profile pages. The first and most noticeable change is the cover. This open space at the top of the page allows you to add another larger photo to your wall in addition to your profile picture, giving the page a more personal look. Stories (statuses, places you traveled, etc.) and photos are located below the cover and are separated into two columns with a timeline running down the middle, allowing you to see the sequence of everything. Stories and photos that are important to you can be “highlighted”, which basically means they become bigger and more noticeable, and stories and photos you don’t want on your timeline can be removed. Also displayed are all of the apps that you use. For example, if you read an article or listened to a song via a Facebook app, everyone who looks at your profile will be able to see what article you read or what song you listened to and when you did it. The design also allows and encourages users to add “life events” not previously documented on their profile to their timeline. This feature is especially useful for adding events that occurred before the user joined Facebook. 9Although Timeline has been a mostly optional feature since it came out in September 2011, Facebook managers have gradually been forcing the transition. All Facebook pages (meaning company pages, not profiles) have been switched to Timeline and many profiles have been switched as well. However, there is not a set date for when Facebook expects to have all of its users transitioned. 10
Facebook Connect is a feature that allows users to use their Facebook login credentials to authenticate themselves with unrelated sites. For example, if www.example.com used Facebook Connect and I wanted to create an account with them, I wouldn't have to set up a separate password with them; I could simply click a special link and log in to Facebook, and www.example.com would then be able to make an account for me.
Be careful of what you allow sites to see through Facebook Connect. Most websites that use the system will be able to see your contact information and friend list. Many sites will also request permission to post to your Timeline on your behalf. Many consider this a nuisance. You can set who can see such posts when you allow the site to access your information for the first time. The most you can do is set the posts that are made on your behalf as "visible to me only," thus hiding them from anyone else who views your Timeline.
What are the Benefits?
There are lots of really great things about Facebook. One of the most attractive things about the site is that it gives the user lots of opportunities to feel connected with people. The site allows people to post pictures and videos, and then other people can leave comments. Consider the following situation. My best friend is attending school several states away from home, and her family uses Facebook to share photos and videos of their adventures. Facebook doesn't replace verbal communication for them, but rather it enhances their ability to share what's going on in their lives.Another way that Facebook helps people feel connected is through contacting old friends. You can search for people using their name or their e-mail address. This has allowed me to contact friends I had back in grade school; these are people I could not have otherwise contacted. Staying connected through Facebook doesn't have to be as dramatic as either of these two examples. Simple status updates, which allow the user to share any kind of update about their life, can help people informed on what's happening around them. A simple update about a concert a friend is attending can help the user feel like they know what's happening in their immediate community.
What are the Risks?
- Facebook has adjustable privacy settings. This means one can choose to make his or her information visible to anyone on the web. Kids and teens don't always have sound judgment when deciding what is and isn't safe to post online, so having a wide-open Facebook page is dangerous. Having too much personal info online puts one at risk for becoming a victim of identity theft, receiving lots of spam, being cyberbullied, being cyberstalked, or becoming a target for online predators. See How to Create a Safe Facebook Account.
- Accessing Facebook from an insecure connection can be dangerous. When on a public internet connection, people can easily have access to your account through programs such as Firesheep. To help prevent this, make sure secure browsing is enabled in the Security section of your Account Settings.
- Even if your child uses Facebook appropriately, other Facebook users may post offensive content—and this means your child can view anything a Facebook "friend" chooses to publish. There are also many Facebook "pages" with offensive content which is impossible to block.
- Facebook is a fun and engaging site. Many kids, teens, and even adults admit to spending irresponsible amounts of time on the site. A recent study said that an estimated 350 million people worldwide admitted to being addicted. While it is debatable whether or not this is a full-blown addiction, a person who spends too much time on Facebook may quickly find the demands of real life tough to keep up with.
- Facebook offers links to many games, such as FarmVille. These may increase the risk for Online Games Addiction.
- Many of the Facebook Memes, while harmless, may confuse your child or be full of innuendo.
- There are many Facebook Hoaxes,Scams, and Malware, some of which could damage your computer or trick you into doing something you didn't actually want to do.
- You may have heard of Facebook Stalking. While it sounds dangerous, it's sometimes harmless, but could lead to bullying.
- The Facebook timeline can give profile viewers extremely easy access to all information that your child has ever posted on their Facebook page.
- Facebook has targeted ads, which may popup games or material, both appropriate and inappropriate, that can be regulated if monitored and deleted frequently.
How Can I Use Facebook Safely?
- Be sure you can access your child's account. Some parents may want to create an account with their child. This means you will have the account password and can access anything your child does on Facebook. However, simply creating your own Facebook account and insisting that your child accepts you as a friend will allow you to view most of your child's Facebook activity. Decide which option is best for you.
- Know what your child's privacy settings are. Facebook can be quite safe for kids and teens so long as they keep their profile pages private enough that only friends they know and trust in real life can see their info. This is especially important if your child uses Timeline.
- Be sure your child knows what is and is not appropriate to post online. What goes online tends to stay online--even on a relatively private profile page, it's still unsafe to post a phone number, address, or any sort of financial information on the Internet. Some things simply don't need to be shared over the web. Having access to your child's page will help ensure that they are not making private family or personal matters inappropriately public.
- Make sure your kids block anyone who posts offensive content or contacts them inappropriately. Facebook allows users to block anyone who does or says anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Be sure your child knows how to do this.
Where Can I Learn More?
Read some of our Newswire Reports on Facebook (We'll divide them up into categories for you):
Privacy/New Features/Site News
- Why you should double check that Facebook invite before you press send
- Messaging a la Facebook
- Facebook Amber Alerts
- How to protect your Facebook info
- Facebook wants to tell the story of friendships
- Facebook gets a facelift, again
- Facebook announces new privacy features
- How to keep your children safe on Facebook
- A new way to stop the spread of child pornography
- The super log-off
- Facebook founder stalked on Facebook
- Wear your heart on your sleeve, but keep your Facebook business private
- Parent sues Facebook for using their child's photo in ad
- Rapist uses Facebook to meet underage victims
- Facebook and free speech
- The Facebook Picture You Hope You Never See
- Facebook confession used in court
- A status a day keeps the criminals away?
- Technology anger management
- Do you steal and tell?
- Companies asking for Facebook passwords for future employees
- No tweens on Facebook just yet
- What Facebook says about our generation?
- Can you actually be diagnosed with Facebook depression?
- Facebook asked to play bigger role in suicide prevention
- Is friending a teacher acting too friendly?
- You should trust your doctor, but should you friend them?
- National Unfriend Day
- Social network stress
- A not so sweet sixteen
- One of every eight minutes online is spent on Facebook
- Using Facebook to predict your next breakup
- Baby girl Facebook
- The Queen joins Facebook
- Would you risk your life for the perfect Facebook photo?
Don't become a victim of "data harvesting" by posting too much sensitive info on your public profile page!
Facebook reaches 500 million members.