Facebook’s Lifestage App Should Scare Parents, Here’s Why

Facebook’s brand-new Lifestage mobile app, a child-only, Snapchat-like “digital yearbook,” is off to a rocky launch. Released early this week, Lifestage is already being torn apart for its huge privacy gaps, inciting concerns about sexual predators, stalking and cyberbullying. With an estimated 87% of parents unaware of their kid’s full online activities, now might be a good time to understand Facebook’s latest push to win over a younger audience.

In Short

Parents: Zero privacy means this could be the scariest major app launch this year for parents. Your child’s post can be seen by anyone using the app, and kids are prompted for a lot of personal data, including the name of their school. But don’t get too worried, Lifestage only allows users under the age of 21, and nobody has ever lied about their age online.

Lifestage’s In-App Privacy Warning

Brands: Nothing to see here (yet). Beware the temptation to sneak marketing messages into this new app, as both the FTC and society says that’s not cool. Rest assured that Facebook will monetize Lifestage with ad units when/if they hit critical mass.

Agencies: Large Scale Data Gathering + Data Analysis = Big Data, which powers the ability to hyper-target ads. This can be a good thing, leading to more effective ads, but there has to be a line, and gathering data from children seems like a good place to draw it. We owe it to society to ask “would I want someone to reach out to my child this way” before jumping onto a new social app. Facebook “has no plans” to use Lifestage data for targeting, but just today they announced they’d be incorporating WhatsApp’s “private user data” into cross-platform targeting profiles. Stay clear of Lifestage until Facebook makes a huge privacy overhaul.

The Details

Lifestage encourages children to publicly share 56 core aspects of their life through videos they take of their faces, classrooms, home, family and friends. Just like Snapchat, Lifestage places contextual graphics around the videos, but unlike Snapchat it doesn’t have text messaging, augmented reality lenses, or any way to restrict who sees these videos.

All of this, every video, is shared to other Lifestage users who “go to their school,” but there’s no age or school attendance verification, raising concerns that sexual predators can easily use this to stalk kids.

8 of the 56 things Lifestage wants to know

Lifestage-owner Facebook has repeatedly stated that their mission “is to make the world more open and connected,” but up to this point users have had some control of how public their profiles are. Facebook users can select different levels of privacy for every post, Facebook-owned-Instagram offers private or public accounts, but Lifestage only offers public accounts. Why make an app targeted to the youngest and most vulnerable generation the most open?

Younger generations are more likely to share through social apps, but that’s exactly why developers, marketers and parents need to set boundaries.

11 Categories, 56 Specific Prompts

Lifestage asks kids to share videos they take of 56 personal things, falling across 9 core categories, plus general “Likes” and “Dislikes.”

Likes (no subcategories)
Dislikes (no subcategories)
Their Faces: Angry, Depressed, Embarrassed, Friday Face, Happy, Hurt, Jealous, Laughing, Sad, Scared, Skeptical, Tired, Worried, Monday Face,
School: Favorite Teacher, My Classroom, My Grades, My Locker
Home: In My Fridge, My Backyard, My Kitchen
Music: I Overplayed, Breakup Song, Favorite Song, Party Song, Thinking Song, On Repeat, Weirdest Song, Least Favorite
People: Chatterbox, In A relationship With, Most Likely to Be President, Best Friend, Family, Fans, Haters, Flirty One, Funny One, Loud One,
How I Do: How I…Dance, Run, Sing, Talk
Food: Favorite Drink, Favorite Snack
Reactions: When I Have No Money, When I Win the Lottery, When I’m Alone, When I’m In Trouble, When My Battery Is Low
Mine: My Closet, My Bag, My Car

See All 56 Lifestage Filters

Filters left blank because I like to choose what people see