Parents: How to set your Facebook privacy settings

Facebook privacy settings for parents explainedONE of the biggest challenges facing parents today is how to lock down their Facebook content so that photos of their kids don’t end up all over the internet. It’s difficult because Facebook keeps changing the rules and they don’t make it a simple process in the first place. So here’s a simple guide to help parents lock down their Facebook security settings. Firstly, you need to know how secure your Facebook account is already. To find out what a complete stranger, or a potential boss, could see if they found your page, do these few simple steps.

What can people – who aren’t your friends – see on your Facebook wall:

1. Get yourself in front of computer. You can’t access all the required settings from your iPhone or iPad.

2. Log into your account.

3. All of your privacy settings can be accessed from the top right hand corner of your Facebook page. Click on the little padlock icon at the top of your page. You’ll see a dropdown menu with three items on it. Click on Who can see my stuff?

4. Another dropdown menu will appear with three items on it, including: What do other people see on my timeline? View as. Click on this option. Your screen will go dark, a black bar will appear near the top of the page and a pop-up message will appear. “Tip: This tool lets you see what your timeline looks like to the public or a specific friend. Remember: Things you hide from your timeline still appear in news feed, search and other places on Facebook.

Facebook photo of Felicity's children5. Click Okay. After that message disappears you’ll be left with the view of your page as others see it. What you want is just the cover photos and nothing else.  Nobody should be able to see where you went to school, where you work, what groups you’re a member of and most importantly, they shouldn’t be able to see any photos in your albums. Unfortunately, the cover images will always remain public. You can’t stop that. If you don’t want your kids to be seen at all, use a bland cover image, say, a landscape or perhaps your pet. This is recommended by experts who say it will slow people down when they want to hack into your account.

That’s step one. You can now easily identify what features you need to lock down to prevent random strangers seeing your stuff. Is it a little or a lot? Write it down if it’s a lot because the next step is to go through each section and fix the settings on each component, each photo, and each section, so that nobody can see it except friends (or family, or whatever level you’re comfortable with).

How parents can make their Facebook account completely private:

You need to go through each component of your Facebook account and lock it down separately. This is the only way you can make sure that everything is seen *only* by people you have approved and have “friended” on Facebook.

Lock down your stuff: OK, so in the first section of this post you were able to see exactly what is public viewing on your Facebook wall, or your Timeline. For most people, they will be surprised to see some mobile uploads (photos) that they didn’t realise had a public setting, or their education, work or things they like, such as Music, Movies and Groups they belong to. Let’s lock down EVERYTHING. For stuff you don’t care about, skip that step. Easy!

Firstly, photos. This is the main event, the headline act, so let’s get to it.

  • Click on your wall or your Timeline, as opposed to your News Feed (by clicking on your name in the top right corner).
  • Click on Photos. Photos of you will be the first thing you see. Here’s the thing. To be 100% confident of every photo’s settings (many of these photos were probably posted by your friends) you have to click on each individual photo and go into the settings. Yes, I know, time consuming. But when you’re done, it’s all rock solid, rolled gold, 100% private. No strangers can see anything.
  • Click on the photo. If it’s one that was posted by a friend, at the top you will see their name. And underneath will be a button: Allowed on Timeline. If you hate the photo, click on the button and choose Hidden from timeline. It’s still visible on your friend’s timeline, but at least *your* friends won’t see it. Unless they are also friends with your friend.
  • If you hate the photo, untag yourself. Hover over the picture and down the bottom some options will appear: Tag photo, Options, Share, Send. Click Options and a menu box will pop up Report/Remove Tag. You can then untag yourself from the photo and people can’t find this image of you in Graph Searches.  The photo is still on your friend’s timeline, don’t forget.
  • Now, when you looked at your Facebook timeline as a stranger would see it, you would have seen all the photos that are publicly available. Focus on those for now. Click on each image and change the settings to Friends. When you go through your Albums you can change the setting for the entire album, rather than having to do every photo individually. Whew!!
  • Untag photos that have your children in them. This way they will never turn up in searches. Sometimes when parents take lovely pictures of other people’s kids, they upload them to Facebook and tag them with the parent’s name, as a way of alerting the parent to the lovely picture. It’s a good way to say, “Hey Judy, I took this gorgeous picture of little Billy at the fete and thought you’d like it”. Once you’ve seen it, untag it. It’s just another step in protecting kids’ privacy on Facebook.

That’s the photos done. Yay! The next section is About. This is where most of the other stuff is hiding that is publicly available. This includes things like TV Shows you have liked, Movies, Music and Business pages you have liked, where you work or went to school or your home town. Go through each section and set the privacy setting to Friends (or whatever group you like, eg Friends except Acquaintances, Family, etc).

Every section has an Edit button. Click on it and find the Privacy setting and set it to Friends. For Groups you need to Hide it. You will still be able to see your groups! But people who aren’t your friends won’t be able to see them.

For now, this is all you need to do. At the end, go back and View your Timeline as a stranger would to make sure you’ve made everything invisible to the outside world.

Now, feel free to share this page with other parents who want to lock down their pictures and Facebook privacy settings. It’s a responsibility we all share, living in such a connected world – to protect each other’s privacy as we would our own and that begins by making sure the stuff you post to Facebook is locked down tight.

For those who want to go through the rest of their Facebook privacy settings, there’s more information below.

Update your settings to the highest level of privacy:

1. Click on the padlock icon -> Who can see my stuff? This section helps you understand and control who can see your stuff. I don’t want to make this too complicated so we’ll just skip to the stuff that locks down your information without going into too much detail about limiting certain friends and groups you belong to from seeing your timeline posts and activity. Three dropdown choices appear. Click on the top one: Who can see my future posts. Set that to Friends.

2. Lock down your Timeline settings for posts: This is a really important step. For the next step click on the cog icon, -> Privacy Settings (This is just an alternative route to the same Privacy Settings page that we’ve explored before).

  • On the LEFT, click on Timeline and Tagging.
  • Starting at the top: Who can post on your timeline -> set to Friends.
  • Next, Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline -> set to Friends.
  • Next, Review what other people see on your timeline. We’ve already done that, so skip over that. It might be handy though, to write down all the elements that strangers can see when looking at your timeline. It’ll be helpful for the rest of this step.
  • Who can see posts you’ve been tagged in on your timeline -> Friends
  • Who can see what others post on your timeline -> Friends.
  • Review tags other people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook -> On. This allows you to check every tag that goes up on *your* timeline only before your friends see it.
  •   When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they aren’t already in it? -> Friends.
  • The final one in this area is Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded -> I have set to Friends but you can put No one if you like. All that it means is when photos are uploaded, the suggested names won’t pop up. This is neither here nor there with my friends. If the suggestion doesn’t pop up my friends will tag me and it doesn’t bother me. But if it bothers you, a way to slow people down is to put No one at this setting.

Now for the Privacy Settings and Tools section:

  • Who can see your future posts? -> Friends
  • Who can look me up? These two settings should be set to Friends and Off respectively. You do NOT want Google indexing your Timeline because then posts will show up in Google searches!

 Activity Log: This is a very useful tool in the Privacy Settings and Tools section, that allows you to see everywhere you appear on  Facebook. It’s not just your own activity you need to worry about, it’s other people’s when they tag you.

You may not be aware of all the photos others post of you and tag with your name. These photos will all turn up in a Graph Search, so if an old uni mate has put some photos of a keg party where you’re vomiting in the garden and you don’t want that publicly available to anyone who searches for your name (ie a potential future boss) then you need to remove the tag. You can’t force the photo to be removed (although you can ask your friend to take it down if it bothers you that much) but if your tag has been removed then you can’t be identified, except by those who knew you. No boss will find that photo in a search.

As you look down your activity log you can see in the right hand column who is able to see that activity. It should all be set to Friends. Hover your mouse over the Friends icon and it will tell you exactly whose friends can see your activity. For example, if you post on another friend’s timeline, hover your mouse over the Friends icon in your activity log and it will tell you that all of your friend’s friends can see that post.

One of the final steps is to limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends. This will limit all your old posts to just Friends. To do this, click the cog icon and down to Privacy Settings. In the top section, the third entry, is Limit Past Posts. Click on it. You’ll get a pop-up warning that explains a bit more about limiting your previous posts (Facebook doesn’t want you to limit the audience for all the free content you’re creating for them). Click on it and your old posts will revert to Friends.

Facebook Privacy Settings Conclusion

The only way to stay on top of this is with vigilance. Every now and then (I have a friend who does it on the first of every month) look at your page the way a stranger would see it and make sure everything is closed up tight. Still.

The more often you delve into Facebook’s security settings the more familiar you will become with how they work and what they can and can’t do for you. Soon, it won’t be time consuming. It won’t take up lots of headspace. It will just be something you do every now and then, routinely. Like cleaning out the old emails in your inbox. 🙂

If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments. Questions about creating different audiences? I can cover that in a separate blog post if you like. Just let me know what you want to know.

PS: I’m no Facebook expert, I’m a parent who educated herself about how Facebook works and how its privacy settings function. I hope this post has been helpful to you and if so I would love to hear it. Also, do you have any tips of your own? Please share!

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