The Internet and social media in particular have made it easy to share more of our personal lives with our friends. But, it’s also become easier to share with people we don’t even know. Online privacy isn’t just about protecting your personal information — name, address and birthdate — to help prevent identity theft. It’s also about protecting you and your family from public embarrassment, from private conversations going public, and from stalking and bullying.
If you’re unsure whether you and your family are exposed or protected online, take a look at these four social media tips and adopt the ones that make sense for you. And, make this year more secure than last.
1. Review the privacy and security settings on your social media accounts.
Take an hour or so to evaluate and update the privacy settings on all the social sites you use. Facebook will probably require the most attention, because there are so many ways to share personal information (maybe more than you’re aware of) and so many options for limiting access to your info. You can control who sees your posts, who posts to your timeline, who contacts you, who looks you up and whether search engines can link to your timeline.Review the privacy settings on your other social media accounts, too, from LinkedIn down to Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.If you only use a site to connect with a small circle of friends, then you can probably select the most restrictive privacy settings for the greatest protection. For help, try these social media privacy setting tips from the Center for Identity at the University of Texas at Austin.
2. Think twice about what you share online.
Sharing information about yourself is the whole point of social media. But, once you’ve shared online, it’s very hard to un-share. Certain information may always be available to someone who knows where to look. And, even if your accounts are private, someone in your network may share what you’ve posted with their own network. You can truly never know how far your posts may travel, so think twice before posting:
- Your full birthdate. Share the month and day, if you like, but leave out the year you were born.
- Photos with geotag information that may allow strangers to identify where they were taken and thus where you live or where your kids go to school. Check your smartphone camera settings to turn off geotagging – ask Google for instructions, if needed.
- The address or other identifying factors of your home, office or child’s school. Even a photo showing the license plate number of your new car could reveal too much.
- Photos of other children unless you have their parents’ permission.
- Your travel plans. Posting about your trip before you leave or while you’re gone lets others know your home is unoccupied.
- Anything you wouldn’t want someone outside your network to read, such as a rant about your job or sensitive information about your work. Such posts have led to people getting fired.
3. Do not allow strangers or untrustworthy people into your social networks.
You may be flattered by a pretty stranger’s interest, or blinded by your pursuit to reach 1,000 friends. But, it’s simply not safe until you know who they are and why they want to get closer to you.In a similar category are the casual acquaintances you just made at all those holiday parties. Let the relationships ripen before you give them access to your personal information. And, be careful about your real-life friends who connect with anyone and everyone via social media; your secrets may be available to strangers through them.
4. Monitor your youngest children’s social media use and make the risks clear to your older children.
Children of all ages can be naïve – or just careless – about the impacts of online sharing. It’s hard for them to grasp that something they share online today could impact their college or job opportunities long after the post was made. Plus, they could be putting their personal safety at risk by sharing too much with the wrong person.Even once you allow them freer access online, it’s wise to monitor them until you feel confident in their decision making. Discuss frankly the risks that come from sharing too much, and the practices that reduce those risks. By staying involved, you can have an impact on how your teens use social media even when you’re not looking over their shoulder.
The Internet is a big place, and, while our own social networks may feel familiar and secure, they sometimes aren’t. So, connect and post with care, and adjust your privacy settings before sending that next Tweet.
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