Oct 18, 2013

    Teens get to share, FB gets to mint

    SOCIAL-NETWORKING giant Facebook has opened the door for teenagers to share their posts with anyone on the Internet. But these young users could find that their need "to be heard" may come back to haunt them.

    Explaining the decision that affects users between the ages of 13 and 17, Facebook said: "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."

    Cynics pointed out, however, that by getting more people to habitually visit its social network and share more of themselves, Facebook can generate even more advertising revenue.

    Teenagers, meanwhile, could find themselves more vulnerable. They can now share their Facebook posts with the general public instead of just friends, or friends of friends. Parents worry that any rash post has the potential to go viral and land them in hot water.

    Mr Teddy Chong, 44, a manager of a food company and a father of two teenage daughters, said: "I don't know what my kids will do, what if they anyhow post?"

    Similarly, merchandiser Michael Tan, 51, who has two teenage sons, said taking away the Facebook privacy policy can be "dangerous", especially if his kids were to "post things concerning sensitive topics like religion".

    Cases of teens getting into trouble for their online posts are not unheard of in Singapore. In December last year, a 13-year-old boy was arrested after he made a threat to bomb Marina Bay Sands in a Facebook post.

    In January, another 13-year-old sparked an online furore when he made insensitive remarks on Twitter about a traffic accident involving two boys in Tampines.

    Mr Alfred Tan, executive director of the Singapore Children's Society, said: "Teens tend to be more rash in posting certain things without considering or weighing the consequences across the board."

    But Mr Poh Yeang Cherng, principal consultant at Kingmaker consultancy, said that such issues are not limited to Facebook.

    "Teenagers today have a multitude of options for self-expression, through platforms like YouTube, Google Plus and Instagram," he said.

    What these teenagers might not realise is that their sharing is more fodder for eager advertisers and Facebook's revenue.

    Professor Ang Peng Hwa, director at the Singapore Internet Research Centre, said: "Facebook is trying to monetise the data as much as possible, and (this is) one such way."