Professor Sang Nam: Teens who are used to staying anonymous online are in danger as a result of a Facebook change

Facebook recently updated their security settings to allow 13- to 17-year-old users to share posts with the general public.

Sang Nam, associate professor of communications in the department of film, video and interactive media in the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University, is available to comment.

“As Facebook wrote in its Newsroom post, teens these days are ‘among the savviest’ users of current communication technologies, including social media. Thus, I welcome Facebook’s effort to resolve the social or communication imbalance between teens and adults. However, there are things they should know before they change their setting to ‘public,'” said Nam.

“It is no secret that our online activities leave our digital footprints everywhere we visit online. Why it matters now is because Facebook uses teens’ real identities. Other SNS tools, such as Twitter and Instagram, have allowed teen users to voice out their opinion publicly. However, teens using these SNS tools kept their privacy by using screen names. They were less responsible for their immature posts with Twitter and Instagram because their online presence wasn’t directly connected to their real identity. Thus, it was easier to move on when your online reputation was seriously damaged. Few of your close online friends would know who you are, but once you closed the account, you could easily move on to create more politically correct online persona. However, Facebook uses real identities, and a teen’s online reputation is at stake. Teens who are used to staying anonymous online are in danger since they could be insensitive about their posts without knowing how their Facebook posts could hurt their online reputation.

“Often, college admissions check applicants’ Facebook accounts or Google applicants’ names to get to know the applicants better. When teens leave a thoughtless remark on a Twitter account using a pseudonym or unidentifiable screen name, they could stay as one of many careless abusers of the Internet online. But when these inconsiderate posts are connected to their real Facebook account with their real name, they risk their college admission.

“Facebook did what they had to because this move would help Facebook attract more advertisers. Companies have been dying to know what teens really want in terms of marketing, and now Facebook can give some answers. Facebook’s stock price went up since the announcement, and it will definitely attract more advertisers.

“In terms of online privacy, Facebook’s move is not synchronized with lawmakers worldwide. Facebook’s move jeopardizes many teens’ privacy, yet it’s inevitable since Facebook is under pressure to generate more profit. However, it’s necessary for parents and educators to teach teens about the consequences of going public. Leaving a thoughtless or harmful comment/post online is like littering. People often think it’s okay if you don’t get caught. With the current privacy setting with Facebook, or when you change your privacy setting to public, people actually can see you littering, and the trash you littered has your name all over on it. You probably don’t remember the trash you littered before, but people can knock on your door with the trash you littered a long time ago. It’s a scary thing.”

To speak to Nam, please call John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations at Quinnipiac, at 203-206-4449 (cell) or 203-582-5359 (office).

Categories: Hot Topics, School of Communications

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