The Dangers of Social Networking
Sometimes a good idea can turn into something very bad. Social Networking is a good example of this. When it was created it was so that people could share thoughts and ideas with like minded people and keep in touch with distant family. Then it evolved into the monster it is today. It is heavily involved in every aspect of your life now even if you choose not to use it.
How many times do potential employers base their hiring decisions on what they see on social media rather than on the resume? How many stories are there of people losing their jobs, health insurance coverage and even their relationships because of something on social media that seemed totally innocent at the time? It's obscene the level of personal privacy we have given up in the 21st century and I think most of us do not even realize it has happened.
When we post on the internet we think we are safe and secure in our own living rooms or offices. Perhaps we are sitting in our underwear or in a proper business suit, it really doesn't matter. Why? It's because we are actually not in a safe and private place we are actually in a very crowded room surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of people on all sides, anyone of whom may, or may not, be listening in on your conversation.
Even those who are not on your circle lists (ie: Friends lists in Facebook, followers on Twitter, etc.) can still listen in to your conversations via wall posts and general tweets, responses to other tweets, etc. Think of it this way; if you are in a restaurant with your spouse having a conversation over dinner it is reasonable to assume that if you are not a little more careful those at tables around you, even though not specifically involved in your conversation, can still hear what you are saying correct? Same thing with social media, except it is not so much your volume as it is the 'where' and 'what' you are posting that matters more.
The Illusion of Security
The internet is definitely not secure, no more secure than walking down a street in the middle of the day in a very large city. In such a scenario you are routinely filmed without your knowledge by CCTV, cell phone cameras, regular everyday digital cameras and even the occasional TV camera. The internet is the same way only instead of video, your every keystroke is recorded, every photo you upload is archived. Did you know you cannot 'delete' a photo from Facebook? Oh sure, you can remove it from your profile and the button is labelled 'delete', but Facebook keeps a copy, they always have, it is in your Facebook end-user agreement. Have you read it? Have you read any of the end-user agreements on these social media websites? You should. Did you know you cannot delete your Facebook account? You can deactivate it but it will always be there and hackers love inactive accounts. The password never changes.
On many occasions law enforcement has been able to track people and their activities based purely on internet activities alone. Most of the time this is for a good reason, to be sure, but have you ever asked yourself how they got access to this or that private chat message when they are obviously not a part of the social media circle in question?
Don't forget that every website on the internet has a 'sysadmin' and he can see and watch everything on their network. So, be sure of it, everything you put up on the internet STAYS on the internet for at least a VERY long time and it can be viewed by a wide variety of people for many different reasons. Every time you visit a website your IP address is recorded in a log file somewhere and associated with that website.
The Illusion of Privacy
I once read a story of a woman who suffered from chronic depression. She was given time off from work to deal with the issue and was paid by the medical insurance company while she was off from work. On the advice of a doctor, recommended to her by the medical insurance company, she took a vacation to Mexico to help relieve the stress and depression. She posted pictures of her vacation on Facebook when she got back and the insurance company seen them, they said she was lying and could not possibly be depressed and going on vacation at the same time and cut off her benefits. This woman probably thought she was only posting to her own circle and chances are good the insurance company is not a part of that circle yet they still got the photos. How did that happen? No privacy on the internet.
There are other stories out there as well, teachers who have been disciplined for what they have said on Facebook in private chats or in rooms. Police officers,various other public officials, etc. I won't bore you with them, just remember there is no privacy on the net and there are countless examples that do not relate specifically to government spying or evil agendas. Don't do, post or say anything on the internet you would not do in public.
The Illusion of Safety
The internet is definitely not safe. Especially for your kids. The best piece of advice I can give in this area is to learn how to use the built in firewalls on your routers to block out specific websites from your child or even for your own benefit. Do not just rely on the built-in Parental Controls that comes with software firewalls to work. Most of these do not screen out social media the way it should. In my opinion no one under the age of 18 should even be on social media. It serves no purpose to kids other than to distract them, keep them inside and get them into trouble.
Consider the recent bullying cases involving Facebook. In the old days, before social media, a bullied child would at least normally be safe at home from the bullies but now they get no respite at all, bullying in schools pours over to bullying at home in the form of Facebook threats, insulting tweets and constant insulting and threatening text messages. Don't even get your kid a cell phone, I grew up without one, they are not required. They are distractions at best and tools of aggression and hostility at worst. Constant and unrelenting bullying has lead to suicide among our young people.
And get into reviewing your kids interactions with social media. Save and review internet history listings in your browsers. Learn how to review the log files that are generated by your routers and operating systems. Everything you need to know is probably there and don't be afraid to block websites.
Keep yourself safe too. Watch who you interact with. Too many bad stories out there begin with the words 'They met on the internet'.
If you have multiple machines at your disposal, one at work and one at home then do things like banking and social media interactions from your own home computer. Doing this from work, unless specified in your job description – this should be allowed very cautiously I think, only introduces a whole new level of monitoring into the equation. All corporations monitor their own networks, I know I have been doing the monitoring for years now. Also remember that corporate email accounts and corporate computers are not your own property, they belong to the corporation as do all information on those computers and in those accounts. They can seize it or review it at any given time without giving warning to the employee first. Most of the time you will not even be aware that you are being reviewed. Social Networking does not belong in the workplace.
Do you know how to use the filters and firewalls built into most home routers today?
Were you aware that you lose ownership of your photos when you upload them to many social media websites?
Would you restrict your child/teenager from accessing Social Media all together?
So let's review then;
Never do, post or say anything on the internet that you would not want repeated over and over again and which you would not do in public.
Everything that goes on the internet stays on the internet probably for ever as far as your concerned.
Social Media should be restricted to the over 18 crowd. This should not be some 'law' or anything, rather a conscious decision of us, as parents. You would protect your child from a pedophile who lived down the street right? Well, they live and hunt on the internet too.
Don't get your kids a cell phone and if you really have to then get them a BASIC cell phone, not a iPhone or a Blackberry, so that they cannot go on the internet outside of the house. All cell phones can be tracked by GPS.
Keep yourself safe. Protect your actual location and arrange to meet anyone for the first time in a very public and well populated place.
Never do your social networking from a workplace computer. Never do ANY personal computing from a workplace computer. That stuff isn't your and is heavily monitored.
Social Media was not created for evil purposes but, like anything, it can be misused by a wide variety of low lifes and various other forms of riff-raff. Is the government monitoring you on the internet? In a general sense yes they are. But there are those out there watching you a lot more closely than that. Be aware!