Facebook shares safety tips for kids, adults

Published 12:32 pm Wednesday, September 4, 2013

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

HOOVER — Facebook joined forces with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office Sept. 3 at Spain Park High School to share safety tips for parents and kids using the social networking site.

Brooke Oberwetter with Facebook said the site has several tools to allow people to report bullying, harassment, intimidation and other unwanted behaviors.

“We want it to be a safe and sheltered environment,” she said.

Facebook users can mark posts as spam, report issues with posts, block other users or forward abusive posts to others who can help in person, such as parents or other authority figures.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that students respond to this system really well,” Oberwetter said.

She said Facebook has a team of several hundred people worldwide working nonstop on improving the site’s safety features.

Facebook users should also spend time exploring their privacy settings, which include privacy actions, security settings and timeline and tagging settings. Users can “tag” other users in photos or posts, Oberwetter said.

She also said users can change privacy settings on individual posts by using the inline sharing controls, which allow users to dictate who can see their posts.

The site also has special protections for minors, including making sure that minors are not exposed to inappropriate content or ads, only allowing minors to receive messages from certain people in their social network and not allowing minors to share their posts with a large audience.

After Oberwetter’s presentation, Attorney General Luther Strange said social media education is essential for anyone who chooses to use such sites.

“It’s a new world now, and we need to educate all our consumers, especially our youngest ones,” Strange said.

Karen Dillard, an English teacher at Spain Park, said she attended the event as a parent to learn more about social media.

She said her oldest son, now 14, spends most of his time on Instagram, a photo-based social media website. She said she’s sure to check what he’s posting on his account.

“I think it’s important for me to know how my child is responding to other people and how they’re responding to him,” she said.

Dillard said she uses George Orwell’s “1984,” a classic novel about government surveillance and mind control, in her class curriculum, and can see parallels between the novel and social media.

“I’m fascinated by how we willingly put ourselves under surveillance,” she said.

The Attorney General’s Office recently released a public service announcement about social media, which can be found at Ago.state.al.us/Page-Internet-safety.