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Facebook to allow public posts for teens

In almost a decade, Facebook has grown from a simple network of college students to a Web of family, friends, co-workers, and former flames.

But that wild world can become something of a hazard to teens, particularly as it relates to online bullying. So Facebook has decided to alter the privacy settings for its youngest members.

Beginning today, teens will have the option to make their posts public. However, to prevent them from accidentally making private information available for the world to see, the default setting for new accounts of those aged 13 to 17 will be "friends." Previously, new accounts for all members started out on a "friends of friends" setting.

"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 a statement. "While only a small fraction of teens using Facebook might choose to post publicly, this update now gives them the choice to share more broadly, just like on other social media services."

They can also turn on the "Follow" feature, so users can "subscribe" to a teen's updates and see them in news feeds.

Teens who choose to post things publicly will receive a warning (see below) that the post can in fact be seen by anyone — including potential employers — and not just people they know. That warning also offers the option to change the privacy setting before posting.

"These changes are designed to improve the experience for teens on Facebook," the news release said. "As part of this, we are also looking at ways to improve the way teens use messages and connect with people they may know."

Children under 13 are banned from Facebook because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires parental permission for the collection of data for kids under 13. Those rules were recently updated to be more in line with our Internet-based lives, forcing a few tech firms to make some upgrades.

Image: Flickr (Swansea Photographer)