Consumer Reports: The dark side of Facebook

May 12, 2011 2:49:29 AM PDT
Facebook's easy connection to friends and family has revolutionized staying in touch, but it has a dark side. A just-released Consumer Reports survey shows that in the past year more than 5 million American households experienced problems on Facebook, including virus infections and identity theft.

The survey of more than 2,000 online households found many kids are at risk, too. More than 5 million kids younger than 11 have Facebook accounts, even though 13 is the minimum age that Facebook allows. And the survey found most of their parents did nothing to monitor their child's Facebook activities. The survey also found that 1 million children were victims of cyber bullying.

If you have a preteen using Facebook, be aware that parents can delete the account by going to Facebook's privacy-policy page and clicking on a link to fill out the "Report an Underage Child" form.

In order to protect your child whatever his or her age, it's important to supervise Facebook use. Become your child's friend and check his or her profile regularly. Also, connect your child's Facebook account with your e-mail so that you see incoming messages.

Facebook users of all ages should use privacy settings. But one in five active members had not used those settings, according to Consumer Reports' survey.

To set them, go into your account's privacy settings and indicate "Friends Only." It's also important to use the privacy settings on the apps and websites linked to your account. If you connect your Facebook account to another site, you're allowing that site access to a lot of your personal information unless you block it.

The Consumer Reports survey reveals other troubling facts about Facebook, including almost one in three people have "friends" they are not completely comfortable with and 6 percent admitted to having a friend who makes them uncomfortable about their safety or their family's. In April, Facebook established new ways to report bullying online. You can report the problem to Facebook, block the person who posted it, or contact help.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this Web site.

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