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Facebook

Facebook is a popular social networking app which lets you connect with others by sharing photos, status updates, comments and videos. The app allows users to reconnect with old friends, keep updated with current ones and make new connections. Facebook is currently estimated to have over 2.85 billion active users worldwide. Whilst Facebook was originally established to keep friends in contact, many businesses now have their own Facebook pages where they can promote their brand, and the establishment of ‘Facebook Marketplace’ has meant users can also buy and sell goods through the platform.

Official age rating

The minimum age for Facebook users is 13, however it doesn’t have any vigorous age verification methods.

All accounts default to a public setting, where content can be viewed by any other users on the platform. Setting an account to private is recommended.

Find out more about age ratings in our A parent and carer’s guide to age ratings of apps and games.

How children and young people use the app

Facebook can be popular with users since it allows them to form an online social network with all their friends in one place. Their updates, from their images to their statuses and likes, can then be communicated directly with everyone they know.  The ‘Like’ feature on the platform can be especially rewarding for young people as it often represents approval from their friends or peers.

The Facebook App is easy to use to communicate and chat with friends either one-to-one or in group chats and with various media (for example, GIFs, photos, videos). It is also a useful place to follow brands or organisations and get updates with new information, releases or announcements. Although many young people see Facebook as more of an adult domain which their parents and carers are using - it does still have a lot of younger users.

Potential risks

Content

Some users of Facebook use it to document many aspects of their lives, often sharing personal information through their profile, photos, check ins and status updates. Help your child to think about what they share online and encourage them to think through whether they would share this information offline too. The notion of Facebook friends may lull some users into a false sense of security around the information they share. Explain the risks of what could happen if the information they have shared falls into the wrong hands.

Connecting with others

The Facebook platform is vast, so it is possible that your child may come into contact with users they do not know, if the appropriate privacy settings have not been put in place. Reinforce the understanding that Facebook friends should be people they know in the offline world and accepting a friend request from a stranger to boost their friendship count can be risky. As with other social networks, it is possible for users to set up fake accounts, pretending to be someone else. Encourage your child to question whether they really know the person who has sent a friend request before accepting.

Some Facebook users harass others by targeting the content they share on their Facebook page. The comment function on Facebook can make users susceptible to harassment and abuse. It is helpful to talk to your child about how they should behave towards other online (and remind them of the impact that unkind or hurtful comments or posts can have on others) as well as how to report and block other users who behave inappropriately.  Facebook has community standards that it expects all users to adhere to.

User behaviour

If your child has their own Facebook account, it is important to speak to them about how they are using the app and what they are sharing.  They also need to be aware of the risks of livestreaming using the ‘Facebook live’ function.  Livestreaming can feel exciting and fun and in the moment for children and young people which can lead them to do things that they may later regret.   Have a conversation with them to help them understand that they need to be careful with any content that they share or broadcast.  Ensure your child knows it can be difficult to keep ownership of any content once it has been shared online, as content can easily be copied or recorded and reposted without their knowledge and can then become difficult to remove from the internet.

Design, data and costs

Facebook is a free app, which means it generates revenue from advertising. The company makes money by selling ad space in and next to a user’s feed. Talk to your child about how advertising works, including targeted advertising. Explain to younger users how the platform gathers information from your internet viewing habits to tailor the adverts you are shown.


Tips for keeping your child safe

  • Facebook has a range of settings to manage privacy. ‘Privacy checkup’ is a useful feature where you can manage the privacy and security settings. As all accounts default to public, begin by changing who can view content.

    To manage privacy:

    • Go to the menu and select ‘Settings and privacy’ and scroll down to ‘Privacy checkup’.
    • Select the ‘Who can see what you share’ option which allows you to select your preferences for:
      • Profile information
      • Posts and stories
      • Blocking
    • Work through each option by using the drop-down menu and selecting your ‘Audience’ from one of the following options:
      • Public
      • Friends
      • Only me
      • Close friends
    • Select ‘Next’ to move through to the next set of options.
  • The ‘Privacy checkup’ feature on Facebook giver users lots of control over managing interactions.

    To manage interactions:

    • Go to the menu and select ‘Settings and privacy’ and scroll down to ‘Privacy checkup’.
    • Select the ‘How people can find you on Facebook’ option which allows you to select your preferences for:
      • Friend requests
      • Phone number and email address
      • Search engines
    • Work through each option by using the drop-down menu and selecting your ‘Audience’ from one of the following options:
      • Everyone
      • Friends of friends
    • Select ‘Next’ to move through to the next set of options.

    To disable location:

    • Go to the menu and select ‘Settings and privacy’ and scroll down to ‘Privacy checkup’.
    • Select the ‘Your data settings on Facebook’ option and work your way through the menu until your reach ‘Location’.
    • Follow the instructions to disable your location on your device.
  • You can report and block users who may be bothering you or behaving inappropriately on the platform.

    To report a user:

    • Go to the profile of the account.
    • Select the three dots below the cover photo and choose ‘Find support’ or ‘Report profile’.
    • Follow the instructions to submit.

    To report a comment, photo or video:

    • Find the comment, photo or video you wish to report and hold your finger down on it to being up a menu.
    • Select ‘Find support’ or ‘Report comment’ and follow the instructions to submit.

    To block a user:

    • Go to the profile of the account you wish to block.
    • Select the three dots below the cover photo and choose ‘Block’.
    • Fill in the form and submit.
  • Facebook has a number of tools available to help you and your child understand and take control of their screen time.

    To set up time management tools:

    • Go to the menu and scroll down to the ‘Your time on Facebook’ option.
    • Select the ‘Manage you time’ option and work through the menu to set the ‘Quiet mode’ and ‘Daily time’ reminder tools.

Key features and terminology

  • Friends

    Facebook friends are the contacts you have accepted to see your posts on your profile. These can be family, friends and people you know in real life but can also include those you’ve only met online.

    Friend request

    A friend request is how a user makes a connection with another user. By accepting a friend request, you are allowing that user to view the content you post, and the information included in your profile, unless you restrict your content to particular groups only.

    Mutual friend

    This function suggests people you may know, and therefore may want to be ‘Facebook friends’ with.

    Profile

    A user’s ‘Facebook profile’ is their page where they can upload photos, videos, personal information and status updates to share with their friends.

    Status update

    This function, also referred to as ‘What’s on your mind?’ allows users to share with their friends how they are feeling or what they are up to. This can be done in a range of ways, including text, photo, live-stream or location updates.

    Check in

    Facebook allows users to ‘Check in’ online by tagging themselves in specific locations.

    Tag

    When you ‘Tag’ someone on Facebook, you create a link to their profile. For example, you can tag someone in a photo, or in a status update to say who you’re with.

    Like

    Clicking the ‘Like’ button (thumbs up icon) is an easy way of telling people you enjoy their content without having to leave a comment.

    Timeline

    This is your history on Facebook. It keeps all of your activity, updates, photos and public messages all in one place.

    Groups

    Individual users can come together to form a Facebook group. Groups can be public, private or secret.

    Facebook Live

    This is the live-streaming feature attached to Facebook. Users can make and share videos in real time. Account privacy settings will determine who can view a user’s live content.

    Facebook Marketplace

    Users can create adverts to buy and sell items across the platform. Facebook also uses geo-location data from your phone to find adverts that have been posted in your local area.

    Facebook pages

    This is often where companies and businesses promote a range of things such as the work they have been doing, products they sell and job vacancies.

    Rooms

    This allows users to video call using Facebook or Messenger by inviting multiple others to join your video call, even if they don’t have a Facebook account.

    Messenger

    This is a stand-alone chatting app which is part of the Facebook group. Facebook and Messenger accounts are linked. For more information on the Messenger app, refer to the Messenger app guide.

General tips

We recommend having a conversation with your child about their digital footprint and the importance of being a good digital citizen.  Encourage them to think about how they use the platform, and to be aware that once they share content online on apps like Facebook – that content is no longer under their control.

Facebook has a dedicated portal for parents with tips and advice on using their social network

Facebook has the option to ‘Unfollow’ and ‘Unfriend’ other users on the platform by hovering over either the ‘Follow’ or ‘Friend’ button and selecting the relevant option.