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How to Be Safe on Social Media
Likes, tags and filters – all words that have garnered new definitions in the English dictionary thanks in part to the growing number of social media platforms available at our fingertips. Whether it’s photos with oversaturated filters, location-based check-ins or self-destructing images, social media has enabled us to connect with friends and family at a mere click, tap or swipe.
But have these platforms made us careless when it comes to our safety? While many of us were raised to not talk to strangers, always wear a helmet, and never put foil in the microwave, the same can’t always be said for the worldwide wide web. Here I’ve put together a detailed guide on how to stay safe when it comes to social media. While we’re certainly not trying to scare you, there are a number of steps you can take to help minimise the risks when it comes to interacting with others via a browser or smartphone.
Ways to Stay Safe on Facebook
1. Public vs. Private
When you first signup to Facebook, you’ll need to decide whether your account will be public or private. A public account means your entire profile (including photos and status updates) will be visible to everyone. A private profile meanwhile can only be seen by approved friends. You can change this at any time from the privacy page in settings.
Facebook includes the ability to tag friends featured in your photos – doing so will automatically publish the image to their social wall for others to see. If you’d prefer greater control, you can enable Facebook’s review feature – allowing you to approve or reject tags before they’re added to your wall. You’ll find this option in settings under Timeline and Tagging.
If there’s a post you don’t want certain people to see, you can restrict its visibility to a select few. To do this, click the Friends dropdown box on a new post to see the option to exclude or include particular people.
Timehop, Candy Crush and Tinder are all apps that can integrate directly with your Facebook account. While some apps are more credible than others, it’s a good idea to check which services are currently accessing your data. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has made improvements to how you can manage third-party services, which you’ll find in the apps and websites section of settings.
If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, never hesitate to unfriend them. Blocking goes one step further, preventing a person from sending you any future friend requests. In Messenger, you can also report threatening or offensive conversations by clicking on a chat, tapping the ‘i’ icon and selecting Something’s Wrong.
6. Two-Factor Authentication
While a unique and lengthy password is a great first step, enabling two-factor authentication goes one better – requiring you to enter a six-digit code displayed on your smartphone in addition to a regular password. To turn it on, in settings click Security and Login and scroll until you see two-factor authentication.
Staying Safe on Snapchat, Instagram and Other Social Networks
While you may think the photos and videos sent via Snapchat are temporary, this won’t always be true. For example, there’s nothing stopping a recipient from screenshotting your post. It’s for this reason that we’d suggest only sending things you’d be happy for your grandma to see.
8. Dating Apps
If you’re searching for true love via a smartphone, it’s important to protect yourself both online and in the real world. When chatting with a potential lifelong companion never give out personal information like your address or place of work. If sparks fly and you decide to meet up in person, then do so in a public place, and be sure to tell a friend.
As a social network reliant on photos and videos, it’s important to think about who might see your selfies, breakfast flatlays, and photos of family. In the Privacy and Security section of settings are controls for limiting who can see, comment, and tag you in photos.
While many users in the Twittersphere choose to make their tweets public for the world to see, there’s also the option of making your account visible only to followers. You can enable this from the Privacy and Safety section of settings.
An app that makes it easy to get in touch with friends also means anyone with your phone number can send you messages. It’s for this reason that you should only share your mobile number with people you trust, and never publish it online. If you do experience harassment, WhatsApp makes it easy to block or report users by visiting the contact info screen within a chat.
While it mightn’t be a social network, your email address plays a crucial role in keeping your social accounts secure. Never open links from recipients claiming to be from Facebook or Google, especially if they’re asking for confirmation of account information. While these emails may take you to a page that looks like a social network, they’re usually fake sites attempting to steal your login details.
Sure, social media is great for keeping in touch with friends, but it’s also somewhere cyberbullying often occurs – especially among children. While many sites now allow children as young as 13 to register for an account, that doesn’t mean they’re protected from harassment or offensive content. One of the best ways to minimise the risks is through open communication and monitoring of your child’s social media activity. There’s a number of useful online resources, starting with the eSafety Commissioner website.
14. Mental Health
With users becoming more and more concerned with their number of likes, follows and tags, it’s important to remember that not everything you see on social media is a reality. In fact, much of the content we find on sites such as Facebook is largely positive – very rarely will you see posts from people feeling sad or lonely. But if you find yourself becoming frustrated while browsing your social feeds, it may be a good idea to log out and check into the real world for a while.
Risks Involved With Social Media
Social media has (rightly or wrongly) become an important part of our world, with a wide number of digital platforms encouraging us to broadcast all aspects of our lives. But are we sharing too much? Does posting a photo in front of the airport departure sign increases your risk of burglary while away on vacation?
And what about reputation – over the last few years we’ve seen countless stories in the media not only about celebrities but also ordinary individuals who’ve lost their jobs after posting something seemingly innocent on sites like Twitter. While there’s no clear-cut answer, we think ‘less is more’ works well here – don’t feel pressured to post more than you’re comfortable with, knowing that what goes on the internet can be almost impossible to delete later down the track.
Delving deeper into the things we post, it’s important to keep your most personal information personal. Sharing things like your phone number, or your home or email address can heighten the risk of identity theft, spam and your general safety. What’s more, social networks have made tracking your digital footprint easier than ever.
Simple things like tagging friends and locations in your photos can help build up a profile as you move from place to place. Even seemingly innocent things can have consequences. For example, during the 2015 Melbourne Cup, one lucky punter posted a selfie with her winning ticket, only to have it cashed in by a so-called friend who saw the image on social media. The take away from this – don’t bet your life away by sharing it on social media as it could cost you in the real world.
Even though it’s something that’s been around for many years, we often fail to think about our password for more than a few seconds. And yet, it’s this single string of characters, numbers and symbols that acts as the main barrier preventing hackers from getting into your account.
Not only should you have a long and lengthy password, but it’s also important to have a different code for every website you sign up to. Programs like LastPass and 1Password are great for securely storing and managing the many passwords you create over time.
Permission and Consent
As we move to share more and more, the issue of consent is something that’s important to consider when posting photos of others. While social networks may thrive on and encourage the notion of sharing, that doesn’t mean it’s always acceptable. On the contrary, it’s important to think about whether a photo or video featuring someone else could be seen as humiliating or hurtful to one’s reputation. It’s for this reason that we recommend always seeking out permission before posting. This rule especially applies when it comes to photos of children.
Sharenting refers to the growing number of parents who regularly post and share photos of their kids. As you probably already know, not everyone uses the web for good. So before posting that cute photo of your kid, think about who may see it, and if it’s another parent’s child, ask for their permission.
Here’s a question to ponder over – how many of your Facebook friends do you actually know? As sites work to add more and more personal information to our profiles, it’s a good idea to think twice before accepting new friend requests. In fact, we’d recommend only sending and accepting friend requests from people you’ve met and had a conversation with in the real world.
Hassan on November 20, 2019:
Online privacy is real concern at the moment an these tips would surely help people to use social networks safely :)
Alvina George Martino from London on December 16, 2018:
All of these tips are really good but you have no control when Facebook or Twitter sell your data, even your kids' data, and your friends' data and their friends' data are purchased for possibly bad purposes (Like US Elections). Social media started innocently but became so big that data of millions is like gold for bad guys. Be aware before you post. :)