Everyone needs to have safety top of mind when it comes to anything technology related.
Social media encompasses everything from apps, forums, websites, etc. Your entire online persona and information should be safe guarded and taken seriously to protect. This is especially true for children, as well.
Did you know that 75% of children would share personal information online in exchange for goods and services?
Also, two-thirds of Americans are willing to give companies access to their personal information to receive discounts, better products, or better services.
That’s quite a lot of personal information sharing! We need to be aware of what is being shared and how we can prevent personal information from getting into the wrong hands.
If we can stay safe online, it will increase our chances of staying safe offline.
In this article, I’m going to focus on how to keep yourself and your children safe when using social media.
- Turn off location services – It’s very common for Instagram and other social media profiles to ask for your location. This will pin-point your exact spot at the time the picture was taken or where you are currently. I’ve seen people pin-point their exact home location (I knew it was their home because it was a friend and I’ve been there!) This has many safety and security implications. Anyone can see that location and decide to take advantage. Unless you’re using Google Maps, turn location services off.
- Hide landmarks – When you take a photo, try to hide distinguishing location markers. Such as street signs, names of buildings, statues, etc. Showing a picture of a wildly known landmark such as The Alamo, is acceptable. However, in that case…
- Post pictures later – Post pictures at a later time, preferably after you’ve left the location. Take pictures and live in the moment of doing and exploring wherever you happen to be, but wait until you get home/to your hotel room/etc. to post the picture(s). Which brings me to point #4.
- Avoid saying your exact location – While it may be tempting to say you’re staying in a particular hotel or in a particular place, leave a little mystery and only reveal that information to close family and friends. Like I said in tip #2, if you happen to post a picture in front of the Alamo, that’s fine. But don’t then say, “we’re going back to our hotel room at the Hyatt Regency Downtown across from the San Antonio River Center mall”. Hold back specific information like that. Posting a picture of The Alamo will be a dead giveaway that you’re in San Antonio, but that’s ok, especially if you post it long after you’ve left The Alamo.
- You don’t have to talk to anyone – If a complete stranger contacts you through private message and starts asking you personal questions or suddenly wanting to get to know you, be wary and block if you feel uncomfortable. You have NO obligation to talk to ANYONE you don’t want to, online or off. Creeps are everywhere. I’ve had people contact me privately through the game “Words With Friends” and start asking me if I’m ticklish! I immediately block.
- Be picky about information you share – Anything and everything that you post on the internet, no matter how “private” it may be, has the potential to be seen by anyone. Be very picky about the information you share online. Keep your address, phone number, ID number, social security and personal email off public social media profiles. This also includes work information. You may even want to consider a fake name just for online purposes. And really think about the information you’re sharing each time you post a status update. Ask yourself, “is this revealing too much information to people I don’t know all that well or at all?” We walk a fine line between personal and safety, just use your best judgement.
- Monitor your kids closely – Kids can find the weirdest stuff online and the weirdest people can contact them. It’s important for us to keep a close eye on their internet usage and to activate parental controls to keep them from accessing certain sites or terms. Please also talk to your kids about inappropriate online behavior, especially when it comes to bullying which is steadily increasing. They should know that if anyone ever tries to bully them or strangers are trying to lure them to a meeting place, that they can be comfortable telling you about it. Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.
- Have strong passwords – If you’re anything like me, you’re getting annoyed at the requirements for passwords these days. However, it’s necessary to have an extremely strong, unique password. And passwords should not be the same across all platforms.
- Avoid quizzes – Those fun quizzes that you see being posted on Facebook want access to your personal information. Once you give them access, they can use your personal information for anything they want, because you gave them permission to do so. Try to avoid those quizzes, challenges, games and third party apps.
- Keep your network small – The more friends you have, the more likely your information could be seen by people you don’t want it to be seen by. Be picky about the friends you have on social media.
The internet has made everyone more connected which is great, but it can also be dangerous. Don’t underestimate the power of social media and the information which can be found on it.