Facebook’s Minimalistic Solution for a Panic Button

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 A couple of weeks ago, Facebook teamed up with The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP) to develop a “panic button” application for their UK members who are between the ages of 13-18.  The development of the “ClickCEOP” app was in response to the pressure that Facebook was receiving from the UK police agency.  The button (or application) allows teen Facebook members in the UK to report any instance of cyberbullying, hacking, malicious content, etc to their local police department.  This application comes at a prime time considering all of the media hype that’s been surrounding Facebook’s lack of privacy safeguards.

First let me say that though I applaud Facebook for finally taking some initiative with this app, it seems like they’re forgetting about their hundreds-of-millions of users on the other side of the world.  To give you an idea of what I mean, it was reported that in January of this year, the UK was home to a little over 23 million active Facebook users.  And of those 23 million, about 5.5 million were between the ages of 13-18.  Now it’s fair to say that this number has gone up in the last six months, but compared to the 150 million users in the U.S., you can bet that we have more 5.5 million 13-18 year olds.  Comparisons aside, taking those numbers into consideration is also accepting the fact that a good amount of those “13-18 year olds” are kids who lied about their age to begin with.  

The other problem with this app, and one that a Facebook spokesperson so readily admits, is that users have to opt-in to use it, meaning they have to choose to download it onto their profile.  To be honest, I’m a bit confused as to why Facebook couldn’t just make it a mandatory update for all 13-18 year old users in the UK.  I checked the app out for myself and I found it to be more than a panic button—more like an education resource for kids to learn about Internet safety and report any instance of it if they need to.  That said, I think it’d be a great tool for Facebook to incorporate the ClickCEOP app across the board regardless of location. 

Parents, I don’t want to come off as “knocking Facebook” for their efforts, as minimalistic as they are.  I think that the partnership that they’ve formed with the CEOP shows that they are at least recognizing and really acknowledging that there is a problem on Facebook for kids and teens specific to what I’ve always talked about: exposure to inappropriate content for kids and people that intend our children harm.  But what really bugs me is the fact that, not only do they make it a voluntary decision to take advantage of such a useful tool, but they limit the access to such a small portion of their adolescent user base.

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  • As you say it’s a start so let’s award Facebook a few stars for that but the app is:
    1 Very difficult to find
    2 Confusing when you do find it
    3 Tells the user to fill out a report or contact their local police
    Taking all of this in combination you have a situation where the app is not going to have any real impact.
    Apart from the above as you have already mentioned it only applies to the UK and only there because of the bad press they have been having.
    Surely there should be a worldwide app which sends the user to their own country’s relevant help organisation. This should be combined with a default setting of on and visible on the home page for all new and existing accounts.
    Then the only challenge that Facebook faces is that simply having a button or an app or whatever does not improve safety at all. It is use of the app that will improve safety but they cannot force users to use it.
    The key to everything is awareness and that is where they (and every other social networking site) fall way short of the mark. An education campaign is needed to teach awareness of the dangers of social networking but conspicuous by it’s absence.
    We, at my company i-PAT in the UK, have been trying to speak to Facebook for a long time about this issue and how it can be resolved but have so far met a blank wall of silence.
    Have you had any luck in speaking with Facebook? and if so how did you manage it?

  • Glad to see that there are grown-ups that are interested in what our children are exposed to on the Net and try to suggest how to minimize the damage. This must be such a problem for parents to manage. How to monitor, all what is going on, on facebook for example.
    So much scary things that the parents know nothing about.
    Keep up your good work/guncai from Twitter *smile*

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