Saturday, March 21, 2009

Elementary principal warns parents of Facebook uses

WKRN Channel 2 Beth Ferguson is the principal at Nolensville Elementary School in Williamson County. Alarmed at the number of elementary students using Facebook, pretending to be older, she sent a letter to parents, urging them to check children's Internet use Ferguson said she decided to contact parents after a teacher came to her, uncomfortable that they'd received a Facebook request from a student. "[Facebook] has an age limit of 13. If your kids are on Facebook they had to misrepresent themselves and you might want to know what they are saying about themselves," she told News 2. To get a Facebook account, users must enter their birth date. If the date shows the person is under the age of 13, the social media network boots them off the system. Ferguson found kids under 13 who had obviously lied about their age. She said, "If a fifth grade girl represents herself as an 18, 19, 20 or 21-year-old and says she's on Facebook for dating relationships, then you have to worry about what she might say to a stranger who says 'Will you be my friend?'" The warning was appreciated by parent Tabitha Warren, whose daughter attends Nolensville Elementary School. While her daughter isn't allowed to have a Facebook page, her 13-year-old son has one she closely monitors. The letter, however, served as a reminder to just how readily available information on her page is to strangers. By accessing her Facebook page, News 2 found her phone numbers, e-mail addresses and photos of her friends and family in a matter of seconds. Facebook accounts are setup with default privacy settings that allow anyone in a person's network to see their private information and photos. This week, Facebook changed the privacy settings option to include "Everyone". To change those settings, users must go into their settings menu and click the privacy tab. "Sometimes we don't think about the fact the information we think we're just sharing with our friends is readily available to everyone," said Ferguson. Her email to parents worked. Groups and student accounts she found during her research are now no longer listed on Facebook.

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