I’ve created Facebook accounts for three of my children. Here are the steps I use to create accounts with privacy settings that ensure my child isn’t easily found nor information about him or her.
To create your account, just go to Facebook.com and fill out the form that appears on the page. You’ll need to make two decisions right up front:
What name to use
You have to supply a first and last name. (Note: Facebook is picky. It doesn’t let you enter multiple capital letters, certain punctuation, etc.)
You’ll need to decide whether to use your child’s name, a fake name, or a nickname. I’d suggest using your child’s real name. You can use privacy settings to make your child hard to find for now. As he or she ages, though, your child will want to (and should) become more visible and discoverable through search. After accumulating friends, posting photos, and building a Facebook life, your child isn’t going to want to create a whole new account with his or her real name, later.
What email to use
You also have to supply an email address. The email is used for logging in to Facebook, and it’s where Facebook sends notifications such as new friend requests. You might be inclined to use your own email address for younger kids, but remember that you’ll get all those notifications. If you’re regularly monitoring your child’s account, you won’t need to receive those notifications in order to know who they’ve friended and so on. A better approach might be to let your child receive them and help your child learn what to do in response to the messages—such as decide whether or not to friend someone
You’ll also need to enter your child’s birth date. (Don’t worry, you can hide the year, later.) Remember that Facebook is for those age 13 and older. When you enter a birth date, it checks to make sure the user is at least 13, and will deny the account if the birth date reflects an underage user.
Rules to consider: Depending on the age of your child, you might want to require access to the account. I know the password to my younger childrens’ accounts. I have full access and regularly log in to check their and their friend’s postings and to check and update security settings. Obviously, as kids get older, you need to relinquish unlimited access.
After you create the account, you (or your child) will receive an email with a link that you’ll need to click in order to activate the account. At that point, you can create the profile.
Steps in Facebook
Facebook will walk through the next steps to create your account. In Step 1, it lets you enter an email and password to find friends through email. If your child is older and uses email with friends, you might want to do this. Otherwise, click Skip this step. (You can always do this later.)
In Step 2, you begin filling in Profile information for your child. Facebook asks for information about the school or company of the account holder. How you handle this probably depends upon your child’s age:
- For younger children, I suggest you don’t specify any information about their school. My goal is to reduce visibility of my younger children, and make as little information as possible available about them. Just click Skip, if you don’t want to enter information.
- Older children (high school age) want friends and acquaintances to be able to find them. This is also the age when you need to start giving your child more online freedom, while teaching them how to handle it safely. So, I enter school information for my older children.
In Step 3, you can upload a picture of your child as their profile picture. You might be inclined not to load a picture. But the picture is one of the main ways that you can recognize a friend on Facebook. (With 450 million users, there are lots of duplicate names.) Also, a big part of the fun for kids is changing their profile pictures.
Setting up your Profile
After you go through these steps, you’ll see a menu in the body of the page.
Click View and edit your profile to set up your child’s profile. If you don’t see this screen, just click your child’s name in the menu bar, and then click the Info tab.
For younger children, I recommend:
- In the dropdown under Birthday, select Show only month & day in my profile.
- Don’t enter anything in any of the other fields. This will ensure that anyone finding your child’s name and picture doesn’t also see info about where your child lives or who is related to them on Facebook (where they can check the hometown info).
For older children:
- You might or might not choose to show the year of birth.
- I did show hometown information, but left the rest of the fields blank.
Under the Basic Information section is a Personal Information section, where your child can enter their interests, etc. Most kids will want to do this.
Learning opportunity: This is an opportunity to talk with your child about the fact that strangers can pose as kids or friends of friends, and could use this personal information to pretend to be someone else or to like what your child likes.
Below that is Contact Information, such as IM name, phone number, and address info. You can set who can see each of these. You’ll have to decide what you information you’re comfortable sharing and with whom. To set the privacy for a piece of information, click the little lock icon next to it:
If you select Only Friends,, only people that your child has allowed to become Facebook friends, can see that piece of contact information. If you choose Friends of Friends, then the Facebook Friends of any of your child’s Facebook Friends can also see the info.
Note that the email you entered for your child when you set up his or her account appears. (It’s blurred out in the image above.) I didn’t want anyone to be able to see my children’s emails. They have to specifically give out their email to friends.
To set the email (or any other info you enter) so that nobody can see it:
- Click the lock and then click Customize.
- You’ll see the Custom Privacy dialog. In the Make this visible to dropdown, select Only Me.
Finally, there’s an Education and Work area. I didn’t enter anything here for my children.
When you’re all finished, click Done Editing.
Facebook Ads Settings
Next, you should set basic protections for your child.
In the left side of the menu bar, click Settings, and then choose Account Settings. Some tabs appear on the body of the page. Click the right-most tab, Facebook Ads. You’ll see a section titled Ads shown by third party applications.
There is a possibility of some applications showing ads and using the pictures your child posts in the ads, at least when Facebook shows the ads on friends’ pages. To preclude that possibility, in the drop-down Allow ads on platform pages to show my information to, select No one.
Scroll down on the page, if necessary, to see the drop-down Show my social actions in Facebook Ads to, and select No one. Then, click Save Changes below that box.
There’s one last important step. In the left side of the menu bar, click Settings, and then choose Privacy Settings. You’ll see a list of settings. Click Search.
Facebook Search Results specifies who can search for and find your child from within Facebook:
- If you set this to Only Friends, it’s pretty much impossible for anyone to find your child searching within Facebook. Your child will have to be the one to Friend people, for the most part.
- If you choose Friends of Friends, then people who are friends of the people your child has friended can search for him or her. (For example, your child friends Sammy on Facebook. Sammy has friended Jamie. Your child knows Jamie, too. Jamie can see your child in Search, because Sammy is your child’s Facebook friend.) This is probably a reasonable setting for even younger children, as it makes it possible for their schoolmates to find them, but still hides them for the most part.
Public Search Results specifies whether someone searching through Google, Bing, and the like can get your child’s Facebook page in the search results. I suggest you uncheck the Allow box for any child.
Verify the Profile View
Finally, when you’re done, you can check what a stranger can see. In the left side of the menu bar, click Settings, and then choose Privacy Settings. From the list, choose Profile Information. In the gray bar, to the right, click Preview My Profile.
You’ll see what your child’s profile looks like to someone who hasn’t been friended by him/her yet. Remember, though, that depending upon what you set under Search, your child may be hard to even find on Facebook.
Now your child’s account is established and basic protections are in place. There are other privacy settings you’ll want to adjust, such as who can see photos your child posts, who can post on their wall, and who can view which posts. I’ll cover those in a follow-up article. Join my Parenting and Social Media page in Facebook to be notified about them and for other articles and discussions about how to help your children use social media wisely and safely.
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