Best Practices For Kids Social Media: Profile Settings

teen-computer.jpgHow can we help kids’ learn to configure their profiles so they have fun on social media sites, while protecting themselves from needless data-mining, behavioral profiling, ad targeting, spam and such?

I wrote about the new plug-in at My Data is My (just went live today) and rightfully, press buzz and discerning eyes noted that it simply shifts the trust/faith from one place to another, in this case a ‘watchdog group’ with privacy concerns. Reporter Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch went so far as saying it’s a plug-in ‘nobody needs.’

I’d say let kids and their families be the judge of that, eh? More CHOICES the better, seems to me. After all, transparency, not stealthy spy stuff seems the best way to earn good will.

Most kids I know don’t like being ‘tracked’ by parents much less media…And few parents are wild about intrusive corporate stalkers watching their kids. Feels icky.

Profile configurations are not a high priority as a rule when kids ‘just wanna have fun’ and rarely look into ‘best practices,’ much less guard against spam, anti-virus leaks, or their own personal safety beyond the ‘obvious’ stuff. (“geez, I KNOW, mom, duh” might sound familiar?)

Most favor convenience over compliance with “terms of use” representing a ‘yadayada’ barrier button to get to the next screen. Am I right, youth team? C’mon, fess up, I’ve watched you guys do this constantly in our media literacy sessions on ‘e-havioral’ advertising. (FTC webcast here from last fall’s roundtable on this kids’ media issue)

So where does that leave youth data? Why, in the hands of savvy marketers, of course!

Commercial interests win by default, due to hassle-factor and legalese, since most of us don’t read the mouse-type, single-spaced, mumbo-jumbo.

Marketers can easily say, ‘hey I told you we were collecting this, didn’t you read the terms?’ and if it’s not an ‘in your face’ advisory or easy to act pop-up window, they’ll get what they want every time.

Kids and parents should be the judge of what data they want to relinquish, and ALL need education on the sophistication of digital data-mining, kids being targeted with digital ad tactics, behavioral profiling, and tracking digital fingerprints virtually everywhere from websites to mobile.

Mind you, folks like me are a thorn in the side of these behavioral profilers, since I’m all over the web surfing sites like Miss Bimbo and exploring controversial pornification and objectification of childhood scenarios.

Still, I say consumers of ALL ages deserve the right to know who’s collecting what on whom, and where their personal information is going. (along with a clearer understanding on ramifications, in kids’ language, directly answering the almighty ‘so what’ and ‘who cares’ questions of transparency instead of spinmeister legalese gobbledygook)

sophos.jpgWith that in mind, here’s a solid primer on ‘best practices’ for configuring kids’ Facebook profiles, from the IT worldwide security and control firm that protects internet service providers (ISPs) and businesses called Sophos’ (100 million users/150 countries, 20 year data protection record, based in the U.K.)

You don’t hear about them even though they have a gazillion industry affiliations because they don’t sell a ‘personal edition’ like the Symantec vs. McAfee rivalry…so it’s likely you won’t see their brand in ‘end user’ retail stores.

Who is Sophos and why should you remotely care?

They’re involved with K-12 schools and university protections in a big way for starters…

I’ve been reading through the SophosLabs blog and their integrated data protection, research on security, malware, kids’ profiling and such, and it’s quite wonkish but fascinating to see how sophisticated the digital arena has become so fast. (as my mom used to say of details, ‘they’ve got it all down to a gnat’s eyebrow’—looks like that applies to data handling now)

No one says people can’t make money…but we don’t need to be making money on the backs of kids perceived as commodities.

Shouldn’t we start establishing some best practices in security and find a way to choose our media entertainment WITH our personal freedom? It shouldn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ proposition…

actlogo.gifFrom Anastasia Goodstein’s Business Week editorial about overhauling the Children’s Television Act (“Let’s Rewrite the Rules for Kids’ Media”) to FTC privacy issues and digital ads, it’s time kids (and adults) advocate for the right to be a CUSTOMER of these highly trafficked sites, rather than as a PRODUCT sold to them.

That’s my two cents…what’s yours?

Visual Credit Above: Harvard Graduate School of Education, Special Collections Library. ACT.



  1. And THIS is the kind of ad/spam that ruins apps and plug-ins, with interference…

    As David Armano twittered, “ugh, Twitter was testing ads last night, I feel cheated on!”

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