Huge social site's arcane privacy settings undermine educational use

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 2 reviews

Privacy rating

Expert evaluation by Common Sense



Subjects & Skills

Communication & Collaboration

Great for

Media Literacy, Professional Learning, Social Media

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: This site feels ubiquitous; it's a nearly surefire way to connect with most of a classroom community.

Cons: Privacy settings can be porous and very hard to tune; it can feel like you have little control over what you see or what you share.

Bottom Line: This giant of the social-networking world is fun to use personally (and perhaps professionally), but it may not be a great fit for schools.

Check your school's policy on how teachers and students are expected to interact on social media. The best approach is probably to use two of Facebook's features that don't require you to be Facebook friends with your students: Groups and Events. Consider using a Facebook Group as a message board for students to collaborate. Students might share posts, news stories, images, and links they find from across the web. You might use the Events feature to get the word out about upcoming events and to gather students' RSVPs. Teachers might also find Facebook useful for nurturing their PLNs and connecting with communities such as Teacher 2 Teacher, Edutopia, or even Common Sense Education.

While these two approaches might address some of the more problematic privacy concerns about interacting with your students on social media, they may not be especially useful. Your school likely has a learning management system or other digital tool that you use to correspond with students and a central calendar where you can post important dates and deadlines. 

Facebook is a popular social-networking site (and app) where users connect with people of their choosing -- either privately or publicly -- and post pictures, text, or videos. To sign up, users must be at least 13 and have a valid email address. Once you have an account, you can "friend" other users, whose posts will appear on your Timeline. Through the settings, you can choose to have your account accessible to everyone, only to friends, or to a custom group. You can also select what personal information is shared with others, choose whether your profile is available via a web search, and delete posts from your Activity Log. "Liking" a product or celebrity profile will make related posts appear on your Timeline -- and will fuel targeted advertising. Because others can "tag" you in their posts, it's possible to adjust settings around being tagged and approving those posts on your own Timeline. 

Users also can play games, watch videos, decorate their pages, post and tag photos, share favorite product information, "like" favorite celebrities and social causes, live-stream video with Facebook Live, connect with goods and services, and live-chat via Messenger, an app that's integrated with Facebook. Though the app itself doesn't generate iffy content (beyond underwear ads), users create plenty, so the content in a teen's feed is dependent on her friends, and she can search for racy stuff -- and find it. Because the privacy settings are layered and change often, it's important for users to check their settings and make sure they're only sharing with their intended audience. 

As one of the biggest and most enduring social networks, Facebook has many elements that are attractive to users, but it's important to know the ins and outs before using it with your students. Perhaps most importantly, it's critical to understand your school's social media policy with regard to Facebook; since this truly is the granddaddy of social media platforms, your colleagues and administrators likely have some good guidance on how it's acceptable to connect on Facebook with your students and their families.

In general, the best potential with Facebook is for teaching students about social media and digital citizenship. Whether you're using Facebook in school or not, there's great potential here for conversations about what's OK and not OK to post online. As always, posting publicly, oversharing, and cyberbullying are concerns with social media, and with the addition of live-streaming in 2016, it's even more important to talk to students about what's appropriate to share.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

One of the most addictive sites on the internet. Students (and teachers) can spend many hours virtually socializing on this granddaddy of social media sites.


Students can practice communication skills by posting and commenting, and a cascade of prompts teases out quirky forms of self-expression. By setting up privacy controls, students also can learn responsible social networking.


Though Facebook offers a range of privacy controls, figuring out the options can be tricky, and they're pretty well buried so even savvy adults have trouble finding them.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Teacher Trainer

eachers can demonstrate how to do skills or tasks. Teacher can video themselves in the classroom and share the lesson of the day for parents to get a better idea of how to help their children at home. Students can share there projects and explanations of what they have learned. I do not see this as a teaching tool, but more of a sharing tool.

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Privacy Rating

Data Safety How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users.
  • Users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  • Profile information must be shared for social interactions.

Data Rights What rights do I have to the data?

  • Users can create or upload content.
  • Users retain ownership of their data.
  • Processes to access or review user data are available.

Ads & Tracking Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Personal information is shared for third-party marketing.
  • Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
  • Personalised advertising is displayed.

Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.

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