Facebook App Guide For Parents (and Students)

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Facebook App Guide For Parents (and Students)

May 4, 2020
Green Zone

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
We believe this app is a STARTING POINT for your student, but that you must monitor your student on every app they are on. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Gray Zone

Parents and Teachers: Please note this app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe.
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Red Zone

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone. We believe this app is not safe for students to use without adult supervision. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Dangerous Social media challenges

Parents and Teachers: This app is listed as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge. Knowing about social media challenges before your teen does can help you keep them safe before an incident occurs. Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ App Reviews at SmartSocial.com

Table of Contents

Your student might not want to be on Facebook, since that's where their parents and teachers hang out. But having a Facebook account is actually a great way for students to boost their online presence.

This guide will teach students, and parents, how to stay safe and smart on Facebook so they can Shine Online.

CNBC headline: 'Facebook is at the point of no return': These 17-year-olds are very clear about what they love and hate about social media
Facebook is just not cool… Our generation is quite ‘brand-y.’ We are obsessed (with brands) and we’re like sheep, we just flock to whatever seems the coolest. And Facebook is at the point of no return,’ [one teen explained.] CNBC

What is Facebook?

  • It’s a free online social media app that lets people connect with “Friends”
  • Users can share text posts, photos, and videos on their Facebook Feed 
  • The Feed is a mix of content generated by “Friends” and ads/sponsored posts
  • Users can also watch livestreams and “stories,” play games, find events, and shop the Marketplace
  • Facebook owns the following: Facebook Messenger, Messenger Kids, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, Workplace, Facebook Gaming, Portal, and Calibra
  • Facebook accounts can also be used to create many other accounts with services like Pinterest, Medium, TikTok, and more

How many teens use Facebook?

  • Facebook had 2.5 billion monthly active users around the world in 2020
  • 51% of US teens used Facebook in 2018, according to Pew researchers
  • The same Pew Research study found that 10% of US teens said they used Facebook more than any other social media platform
  • Users spend an average of 38 minutes per day on the platform

Where is the Facebook app available? 

Facebook in the news

USA Today headline: "Facebook fined $5 billion by FTC, must update and adopt new privacy, security measures
Facebook must pay a record-breaking $5 billion fine as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, by far the largest penalty ever imposed on a company for violating consumers' privacy rights. Facebook also agreed to adopt new protections for the data users share on the social network and to measures that limit the power of CEO Mark Zuckerberg. USA Today
USA Today headline: Facebook's fundraising tools have raised over $2 billion, fast
Over 45 million people have donated to or created a fundraiser on Facebook, the platform says, and causes range from local cat shelters and private educational institutions to child-care hospitals and high-profile national causes. According to a 2018 study by Nonprofit Tech for Good, Facebook is the platform that most inspires people to give. USA Today
Wired headline: Facebook Dating is Not Available in the US. Here's How It Works. Facebook Dating US Rollout includes a few new updates, including safety features and more Instagram integration
Facebook has long been the place where everyone from college students to divorcées scope out their romantic interests. Now Facebook users in the United States can officially use the social network as a dating service—complete with specialized profiles, a matchmaking algorithm, and more. Wired

Why should parents care?

Facebook icon
  • Strangers can send students friend requests
  • Students can be “tagged” in public photos
  • The company makes money by selling ad space in and next to a user’s Feed 
  • Many people overshare, including parents, which could lead to major privacy issues
  • There are a lot of public concerns about how the company uses the data it collects on users
  • Facebook profiles show up high on Google searches, which could make your student look good or bad, depending on what they post

Facebook allows private messaging and group video chats

  • Students can send and receive private messages and make video calls on Facebook.com and the Messenger app (but not on the Facebook app)
  • The company launched a new group video chat feature in 2020, called Messenger Rooms
  • Users can create a free video meeting room on Facebook.com or the Facebook app with unlimited chat time for up to 50 participants
  • They can choose specific Facebook friends to invite or they can send out an invite link (even to people without a Facebook account)
Tech Crunch headline Facebook's social Zoom competitor Messenger Rooms goes live lobally
The feature capitalizes on video chat’s massive spike in usage across services and hooks it up to the growth tactics Facebook used to push Facebook and Instagram Live into everyone’s feeds. Messenger Rooms is a drop-in video chat, so when a friend using the feature creates a room, Facebook will alert users via a new section in the news feed or push a notification to certain friends. TechCrunch

Positive Facebook profiles help students Shine Online

Forbes headline How to Grow Your Career Using Facebook
I bet when you first created your Facebook profile, you didn’t think it would be the golden ticket to your next job opportunity... But it just might be…  Facebook should not be ignored in the employment arena. Forbes

What Facebook can reveal to colleges and employers

  • Real names and nicknames
  • Friends and influencers
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Personal photos
  • Travel
  • Personality (through status updates)

Why should students care?

Smart phone showing Facebook next to a laptop
  • College admissions officers and hiring managers search for applicants online. You can decide what they will find out about you
  • You might accidentally share a lot of personal information if you’re not careful
  • Photos and posts can help or hurt your image. Pictures and posts, which you consider to be harmless, could be seen differently by colleges
  • You can behave well online, but your friends can still tag you in inappropriate party photos. Even if you don’t actively share your social life on the app, you probably have a friend who does

Students should keep public information Light, Bright & Polite™

  • Use your account to tell your story, in a positive way, and manage what others will find out about you online
  • Open your Facebook account under your real name to prevent someone from mistaking you for someone else

How students can use Facebook to their advantage

Screen shot of Josh Ochs' Facebook profile on a smart phone
  • Let your account showcase your strengths, interesting hobbies, volunteer work, and bright personality
  • Sit down with your friends to examine your page. Ask them questions as they look through your photos pretending to be an admissions officer. How would they react to information they see?
  • Untag yourself from any photos that might not help your online image. Once you’re untagged, you might consider politely asking that friend to remove the photo entirely so it won’t be online for others to discover
  • Open your account page in an incognito/private browsing window to see how much public information you are revealing

Protect your privacy

  • Don’t include your middle name on your page (or any social media account)
  • Never check in from your house, or it will reveal where you live
  • Ask your friends to keep your info private on social media
  • Don’t post about breaking school rules because teachers and principals can discover your page
  • Party pictures can spread like wildfire online.  If you get tagged in a photo where underage people are drinking or engaging in an illegal activity, you could get in trouble (even if you weren’t participating)
Social Media Today headline Facebook Updates Its 'Privacy Check-Up' Tool to Clarify Which Elements You Can Control
Facebook has announced a refresh of its 'Privacy Check-Up' tool, which highlights how your personal data is being, or can be used and displayed by Facebook, and what you can do to limit exposure of your personal information. Social Media Today

Use the app's privacy settings

Facebook Privacy Settings Screenshot Showing Public Post Comments and Public Profile Info
  • Open the app and click on the three lines in the bottom right corner for the menu
  • At the bottom, click Settings & Privacy, and then Settings again
  • Scroll down to Privacy in your Account settings, choose Privacy Settings
  • Choose who can see your: future posts, past posts, people, pages, and lists you follow
  • Choose who can send you a friend request
  • Also limit who can find you via email, phone number, and search engines
  • Choose who can see your friends list
  • Decide if you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile
  • Also in Privacy Settings
  • Select Public Posts and choose:
  • Who can follow you without being a “friend” or comment on public posts
  • Who can see and comment on your public profile photo

Additional Privacy Settings

There are many additional privacy settings available on, including:

  • Ad preferences
  • Reviewing tags
  • Location
  • Active Status

Users should stay up to date, since the company regularly releases updates

Tech Crunch headline Facebook's new 'Quiet Mode' option lets you turn off the app's push notifications
Facebook is launching a new feature called “Quiet Mode” that will allow you to minimize distractions by muting the app’s push notifications for a time frame you specify. Tech Crunch
New York Times Facebook to Introduce and App for Gaming. Video games are surging in popularity in the pandemic. So Facebook is rolling out an app designed for creating and watching live gameplay.
The new app includes casual games and access to gaming communities, but its fate will depend largely on how successfully it entices people to watch and create live game streams. A function called Go Live lets users upload streams of other mobile games on the same device by pressing just a few buttons. New York Times

What can parents do?

  • Talk with your kids about what type of content is appropriate to post
  • Explain the dangers of becoming "Friends" with people they don’t know in real life
  • Discuss cyberbullying with your student and let them know they can always come to you if they ever feel uncomfortable
  • Check your student’s profile regularly and help them update their Privacy Settings, as needed or whenever app updates become available
  • Become a Smart Social VIP (Very Informed Parent) Member and get access to 30+ workshops, including How to Set Up Facebook for a Positive Impact


Facebook can offer students a great way to share their strengths and goals. But like all social media platforms, it should be used in moderation. Continuous scrolling can lead users to compare themselves to others and to lose interest in offline activities. Students should remember to always stay smart about what they post and to never let Facebook, or any social media app, dominate their life.

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