Facebook lets teenagers share posts publicly

Young people aged 13 to 17 can now share their posts with everyone on Facebook

Teenagers on Facebook might want to take a little more time perfecting their next "selfie," because they can now broadcast it to the world.

Facebook amended its rules on Wednesday to let those aged 13 to 17 make their posts "public" on the social network. They could previously share posts only with "friends" or "friends of friends."

"Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard," Facebook said in its announcement.

Some studies have shown teens are a bit less enamored with Facebook these days, and the changes bring Facebook's policies into line with sites like Twitter and Facebook's Instagram service.

Facebook tacitly acknowledged that it was out of step with other social sites. The public sharing option gives teens the choice to share more broadly, Facebook said, "just like on other social media services."

Teenagers can now turn on the "Follow" function for their account, so their public posts can be seen in people's News Feeds, the company said.

But while the changes can make posts more open, Facebook is tightening the default sharing controls for teens. Previously, the default for posts when teens signed up was "friends of friends," with the option to make it "friends." Now, the narrower audience of "friends" is the default share setting.

Facebook has introduced other features in recent months that widen the audience for Facebook content, such as embedded posts and tools to let news organizations weave Facebook content into their broadcasts.

Facebook takes steps to give minors some protection, such as reminding them what it means to post things publicly when they use that option. It also prevents minors' contact information and birthdays from appearing in public search results, and prevents them receiving messages from people they don't know.

On Wednesday, Facebook said it was looking at other ways to improve the way teens use messages and connect with people on its site, but it walks a thin line guarding their privacy in the process. It has already had to explain why its Graph Search tool isn't problematic for young people's privacy.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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