With so much technology at an arm’s length, many people use different social media sites multiple times per day to stay in touch with friends and family, to post photos and even to meet new people.
There are different sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and many others that have become a primary way of keeping in touch with people over the years.
While social media is a big part of our lives, it can be a dangerous one. Luckily, there are many things you can do to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe from scams, predators, and even take care of your mental health.
1. Be Careful What You Share
We all have someone on our friends' list that has shared parts of their lives that are better left private. While it may be annoying to constantly read about someone else’s drama, it can also be unsafe.
Often times, when people overshare, they tend to give out private details such as full names and locations. This can lead to people getting your personal information and abusing it.
Unfortunately, these days, there are a lot of cases of identity theft, which can really affect a person’s life and finances. It is also important to not overshare about key locations, including where you live, where you work and where your children go to school.
Being careful not to overshare also involves being careful what pictures you post. Think before you share and make sure you aren’t giving out important information that could get into the wrong person’s hands.
2. Befriend Those You Know
While many people might use social media to meet new people, it is not always the best idea.
Social media might be a great way to keep in touch with family members and friends that don’t live close by, but it can be risky if you are using it as a platform to meet new people. You can’t really get to know someone by meeting them online. It is a good idea to only be friends with people you know in person. This way, you know you can trust them with your posts and pictures.
3. Be Familiar with Privacy Settings
All social media sites have privacy policies and settings, which you should familiarize yourself with to avoid social media risks. Know whether or not they will be sharing your information with third parties and what they do to protect their customers’ privacy.
Many sites also offer different types of settings which can be really useful. For example, Facebook allows you to choose privacy settings regarding how people can find you, what they can see when they do and how they can contact you.
If you don’t want random friend requests, you can set your preferences and protect yourself.
4. Be Vigilant
It is important for your protection that you know what you have posted and what others might have posted about you. If you see a post or picture you are included in that doesn’t work for you, make sure you reach out to that person and ask them to take it down. If that doesn’t work, there are also reporting options that you should be familiar with.
Another way to be vigilant is to make sure you know who you are talking to. If someone random has sent you a link, do not click it. There’s a good chance it could be a scam. You can also get scammed by someone you know.
Sometimes their accounts might be hacked and they might send you a message that is out of the ordinary for them. Be very careful about links you click on and other pages you visit. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, either report it or ignore it.
5. Be Creative
This tip has to do with the passwords and usernames you choose for your account. If you don’t want anyone to find you on social media, you might want to use something other than your last name. Many people have their first and middle names on Facebook because it is less likely to be found by someone who doesn’t really know you.
It is also a good idea to make sure you use a password that cannot be guessed. For example, do not use your initials and your birthdate. This might make it really easy for someone else to hack into your account. Try not to use the same password you use for other accounts either.
This can make it easy for someone to hack into multiple accounts that you manage. If you write your passwords down somewhere, make sure your information is secure. You might want to think about writing them down and placing them in a safe or locked box that only you have access to.
6. Be Selective
When it comes to social media, be selective about who you allow being your friend. You might not know someone who friend-requests you and although you don’t want to be rude, you want to make sure the people on your friends' list are trustworthy. Don’t feel bad about not accepting someone if you don’t know them.
You also want to be selective about which social media sites you use. Before you sign up, make sure you understand their terms and conditions and that you agree with and can live with them.
Social media will not necessarily make your social life better, so don’t feel like you have to sign up for each and every one.
7. Be Careful at Work or On Public Computers
Most workplaces do not allow you to use social media during work hours. This is not only to protect the company but to protect yourself too. Many places of work have an IT department that can see everything you are doing on your computer. This can get you in trouble, and that is not good if it puts your job in jeopardy.
An additional point to note is that public computers usually do have access to social media, and you must make sure that you sign out when you are finished. If not, it makes it possible for the next person who uses the computer to use your profile. This means they have access to your information and can pose as you.
If you are using social media accounts on your phone, tablet, or personal computer, you want to make sure you lock these devices when not in use.
Of course, it is also a good idea to sign out of your social media account and use a password in case any of your devices are lost or stolen. This way, no one will be able to get into your account.
8. Be Aware That What You Post Is Permanent
Perhaps when social media was first invented, no one realized that everything you post will more likely be permanently online. This means that forever and ever your information is out there on the internet.
Even if you delete it, it might not be enough. Information can be copied over and over, and you won’t even know it. Pictures are usually permanent too. While they can be deleted on your account, you don’t know if someone else has copied, saved or shared them.
It is a good rule of thumb to avoid posting anything that you don’t want your grandkids to see someday.
9. Be Calm When You Post
Many people automatically go to social media when they are angry or sad. While this might be an outlet, remember that anything you post is permanent.
Everyone you are friends with (and even some who you are not) will probably see your angry post. It is simply not worth it. Social media has ruined many relationships. Don’t let it happen to you. If you are upset about something and want to post about it, wait until you calm down and see if it still worth posting about.
10. Be Honest With Your Kids
Children are vulnerable, to begin with, but if you then add in social media, they become even more vulnerable. Have conversations with your kids about social media etiquette long before they are able to have their own accounts. Talk to them about what is acceptable and what’s not, and what might be dangerous when it comes to using social media.
Many young people have no idea the lasting impact social media accounts can have. It is also important to make sure you are talking to your kids about how social media can affect mental health. Having social media accounts can be detrimental to mental health because people compare themselves to others, which makes them lose their confidence.
Social media is a big part of our lives, but you must make sure you are using it safely and protecting yourself and your family. There is a lot to consider when starting a social media account, since your private information may be at risk. Even if you are not someone who posts every little detail of your life, there are still risks.
Make sure you follow these safety tips, so you can enjoy social media safely.