This is a topic that comes up a lot during Cyber Safety conversations. I am still astounded however by the number of both students and colleagues I work with who haven’t really considered the amount of private data that they are choosing the share with the world via Facebook.  Countless, high-profile, job loses have occurred for many an educator who’s mate tagged them in an “un-professional” pose on Facebook whilst their Facebook profile was open to EVERYONE. There are also lots of students applying for university posts or first jobs… their prospective employers need only to Google their name and ooops….  Even Obama warned students about that one..

Although some schools do take the time to advise students (and teachers) about Facebook. The response from most schools in regard to this tool in schools seems to have been to ban it.  (it reminds me of a similar knee jerk reaction to You Tube a few years ago).  The question is, is it more necessary to educate than to ban? If we all took the time (and I do mean all… Teachers and students a like) to learn a little more about the security options in Facebook wouldn’t our personal information be a lot more secure and wouldn’t we have a great, safe place to collaborate and discuss?  I know I use the Teacher Technologies Facebook page for that very reason…

Of course, we must not forget that these collaborations could only legally occur with students over the age of 13 and although it doesn’t seem much of a priority for Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg himself has recently hinted that developing Facebook for education might be a good idea in the future. He won’t be rushing it until he has child protection sorted on his network!

There are educators out there already attempting to use Facebook to help students connect with characters in literature without even needing to use the page.  Take the Nerdy Teacher’s blog on “What Would Romeo’s Facebook Page Look Like?”  and the templates provided by Suzanne Whitlow.  I know I’ve ‘borrowed’ these ideas myself.  Just imagine though, the full potential of using groups, pages, wiki, documents… all within Facebook.

Facebook Privacy Settings Location

Facebook Privacy Settings Location

So, in a world where Facebook has evolved beyond a platform for embarrassing friends and rating who’s coolest, if we were going to tighten up security what would I recommend?

First of all, make sure that you know where the privacy settings are in Facebook. You’ll find them in the top right hand corner of your Facebook page in a menu accessed by clicking on “Account”.  This is where you’ll find a whole host of features for choosing who sees what and when.  My account can only be searched and found by ‘friends’ and my Facebook information doesn’t show up in a Google search.  No one is going to get my phone number or address from its pages and I have set separate lists so I can control what my (now ex) students can and cannot see on my Facebook pages. Let’s see how all of this can be achieved….

Log in to Facebook and follow along if you  like…

Once you’ve clicked “Privacy Settings” you’ll see the first item in the list is “Connecting on Facebook”.

Facebook Connection Options

Facebook Connection Options

Click “View Settings”.

Here’s how mine are set up:

Facebook Connecting Options

Control who can find you and what they can see…


Each of the drop down menus to the right of the menu options can be changed.  You can see for example that only my Friends can search for me on Facebook but that anyone is able to send me a Facebook request, send me a message and see my current home town.  Only my friends can see my other friends and my activities information.  For my education and work settings, you can see how I have limited this even further by creating a group… My students can not see my work and education settings at all. If all of these settings were at “everyone” then that really does mean EVERYONE who has an internet connection can see EVERYTHING posted about you on Facebook. It’s worth checking that you information is secure.

Once you’re done changing settings here, click on “Back to Privacy” (Found in the top left hand corner).

The second menu system on the Privacy Settings page is “Sharing on Facebook”.  This is where you can change who sees the information that you (or other people) are adding about you on the site. The default settings, in my opinion, leave you a little open…

Facebook Security - Sharing Default

Facebook Security – Sharing Default


Everyone can see all status updates, all photos and posts, they can see your personal information in the form of a ‘bio’ and can see your family and relationship information… Too much information for my liking.  Especially when you consider those photographs that ‘everyone’ can see could have been uploaded and ‘tagged’ by someone other than yourself!

My advice? Click on Custom and personalise how this all operates. To do this choose “Custom” from the right and then click on the link that says “Customise settings” in the center. Below is a screen shot of some of the options that are then open to you.  You’ll see that there is a lot of flexibility over who can see what.  In the same way in which we change settings on the “Connecting” Facebook menu options, we simply drop down the lists at the end of each statement and choose who to share with.

Facebook Customise Sharing Options

Facebook Security – Customise Sharing Options


You might have noticed that in my settings I have statements such as “except: Students”.  When you’re dropping down menus you’ll notice the options to “customise… edit”.  Yep, there are even more custom security options there.  By creating lists of people you can choose who, from your friends, can see what.  You could divide them into professional and personal “Facebook Friends” for example or, as I have done, a list of ex-students who want to keep in touch.

Obviously, this amount of security is great for us as professionals, but it is something to be aware of as a parent.  If your child knows about these settings then, despite you being Facebook friends, they could be choosing to place all of their family into a list so that they can restrict what you see. Apparently, in the world of Facebook, children are able to make these wise choices at age 13…. It may, therefore, not be enough to just be friends with your child.  With younger members of the Facebook community I would suggest that you have their password and they have to ask you to log them on for supervised sessions. By the time they’re at uni, however, you might want to encourage them to add you to a list! There are somethings you just won’t want to see! lol

Facebook Security - Creating Lists - Edit Friends

Facebook Security – Creating Lists – Edit Friends

How do you create these lists? Well, head back to the top of your Facebook screen and choose “Account”.  This time, select “Edit Friends”.  Doing so will bring up a complete list of all of your Facebook Friends. It’s from here you can hit the little cross to delete people.  It’s also from here that you can begin to create your lists to separate personal from professional!  To the right of the word “Friends” You’ll see the option to “Create a  list”

Facebook Security - Create a list

Facebook Security – Create a list





Click this button and you’ll be prompted to give your list a name and to add people to it. Once you’re done you’ll see a list of your erm… ‘lists’ appear on the left hand side of the Facebook page.  Now, if you want to you can use the option to “customise… edit” on each of the drop down menus in the ‘Privacy Settings’.  For example, this could mean that your friends can see your pictures and what’s written by others on your wall but not those in the list “professional” or “students”.  Thus, making it all a lot more secure and most importantly giving you control over who sees what.

I know, there are a lot of settings here. But shouldn’t we be sharing this information with both students and colleagues? Not only to help make Facebook a safer place but also to protect ourselves now and in the future…


@heyjudeonline just posted this one on Twitter… Perfect!


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