Facebook: primer for concerned parents

This is a quick guide for parents to quickly understand Facebook, a social networking site used by everyone, including their own children.

What is Facebook?

A web site that is one of the most popular spots on the Internet for people who want to stay in touch with their friends and reconnect with friends or colleagues or schoolmates that they have lost touch with. Created by a Harvard student for people at school to stay in touch with each other and learn more about their friends, it is now an international phenomenon. The site is one of the most visited websites in the world.

Who can create a Facebook account?

Almost anyone can create a Facebook account for free. However is there is an age minimum. You have to be 13 years or older to sign up for an account. However many parents allow their 12 year olds to sign on. 

What is social networking?

Social networking is a term used to describe web sites that allow you to interact and share personal information with others who you “approve” as a friend. Others can see who you are friends with. Some information about you is shared publicly for anyone to see. Besides Facebook, other social networking sites include MySpace.com, LinkedIn.com, Friendster.com, Hi5.com (similar to Facebook), and Flickr.com (share photos).

Facebook Features:

Profile: Personal information about a Facebook member including contract info, address info, photo and activity on the site. Some of this information can be suppressed for the public and limited as viewable by certain groups of friends.

Friend list: People who have asked to be a Facebook friend and have been approved by you. This opens up some of your limited information to these people. Other people can see which friends you have.

Mail: E-mail like Hotmail or Gmail that is sent between between Facebook members. It is private between individuals.

Poking: A mechanism to say hello to someone or to get their attention. When you are poked you receive a message that you have been “poked”. Others can see this.

Applications: Add-on programs that enhanced the capability of Facebook that have been created by other companies. One of the most famous is Scrabulous, a Scrabble-like game.

Photos: Posted photos of yourself or of you posted by others with labels.

Chat: A new and recent feature. Live text messages back and forth between people logged into the site.

Other Useful Facebook Links:

  1. Facebook primer for parents (this article)
  2. It’s a small web after all (a Facebook overview)
  3. Internet socializing good and bad