Is Facebook’s New App for Teens Safe?

We are always looking out for our clients, our friends and our families' best interests, it’s what we do. So when something like the new Lifestage app (created by Facebook) for teens comes out, we consider it our job to read the fine print and let you know about all the privacy details - especially if this is an app that your kids want to use.

The App

Before we pull back the curtain, let’s talk a little about the app itself. Lifestage was created by Facebook for teens. In some ways, this app goes back to Facebook’s roots, since the app is focused on letting teens share videos with classmates and friends from other schools. In other ways, it’s another app trying to copy Snapchat (Instagram has just done this with much success).

But we’re not here to talk about whether this app is just another Snapchat clone. We’re here to make sure that your teens are safe if they use the app. So are they? Well, let’s take a closer look at the Lifestage privacy policy.

Sign Up Language

When a teen signs up to use the Lifestage app the following warning appears:

“Everything you post in Lifestage is always public and viewable by everyone, inside and outside your school. There is no way to limit the audience of your videos. We can’t confirm that people who claim to go to a certain school actually go to that school. All videos you upload to your profile and record are fully public content.”

Public. This means that (unlike Facebook, even) there are no privacy controls available for Lifestages. Everything teen posts to the app can be seen by the public. Further, Facebook cannot authenticate accounts (something that social networks like Twitter have recently started to do).

So what’s the issue if users (children) are warned that the network is public and not private or authenticated?

  • The children should know the risks, Right?
  • They should be read the privacy policy and fully understand what is expected of them, Right?
  • They should be able to discern what content is acceptable and what is unacceptable, Right?
  • They should understand that there is no way to limit their audience, Right?
  • They understand that there might be creeps out there, Right?

Our Issue

Teens are still kids from where we stand. Most, if not all, do not have the ability to answer these questions and make these types of decisions for themselves. This means that we have to protect them. Even though a social network is never a truly secure place, some networks (like Facebook) have given users more control over who sees posts and photos and who cannot access these things.

But an app that is directly targeted at teens and does not allow for any kind of privacy - even warns that there is no privacy or privacy settings - is dangerous. Just as you would not want your teen sharing photos of themselves to the world, you probably do not want your teens to create short videos to show to a classmate that may or may not actually BE a classmate.

So while it’s up to you to decide whether or not your child should be using Lifestage, we do want to inform you that any content posted on this app is visible to whoever might be watching.