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Is Facebook's Lifestage app a parent's worst nightmare?

Facebook has quietly released their new app Lifestage this week - a Snapchat style application designed solely for those under 21 to connect with people in their high school or college.

An application aimed at teenagers is nothing new, but this one has raised eyebrows thanks to its privacy options - or lack thereof. Whilst it isn't yet available in the UK, if all goes well in the US we can expect it to arrive here.

Anyone over the age of 13 can make an account by plugging in their mobile number and finding their school. For users to connect to each other, a minimum of twenty people from that school need to start using the app. Once they have, everyone in that school can easily access everyone else's profile.

The app ditches status updates for video, with users encouraged to upload short clips of their likes, dislikes, music, books, food - essentially whatever you're looking at. Unlike Snapchat however, these videos are immediately available to everyone in your school - and don't seem to disappear after a certain time.

The app store disclaimer reads, '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 are fully public content.'

The age restrictions on Lifestage are worryingly easy to negotiate around as there's no requirement to prove that you're under 21 - and once you've registered under a school, you've got access to everyone's profile. Again, there's no need to prove it - users just select a school to 'confirm' that they attend.

Unlike Facebook, you don't have a friends list - you can immediately access the profiles of everyone in your school. There is an option to block individual users, but until you do all the users can see all your videos. Although Lifestage doesn't come with an in-app messenger, users are encouraged to link to their Snapchat, Kik or Instagram account - so it is fairly easy to contact others.

If your teen is already public on social media, Lifestage shouldn't worry you too much. If it's released in the UK, it might be worth having starting a conversation with children about the lack of privacy settings. Just remind them that anyone with the app can see everything they're uploading - whether they know that person or not.


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