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Staying safe on social media Posted On 17 September 2018

Follow our tips on how you can protect yours and your family’s personal data on social networking sites

 

Social networking has become a 21st century phenomenon with billions of people around the world using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to share their life with friends and peers.

However, in this current digital age, it is easy to get complacent about what information you share online and how it may impact you. Recent stories in the news have left many social media users concerned of their privacy online. Sharing too much information could leave you at risk of identity theft, or even a home burglary.

Despite the dangers, social media brings entertainment to billions worldwide, and with these simple tips you can continue to share your life experiences with your friends in a safe environment.

One of the first things you can do is to create secure passwords. Passwords should include capital letters, numbers and special characters.

Make sure you have a different password for each account – if somebody were to find out your password then they could have access to all of your online accounts. Ensure a secure password is set up on your devices which you have social media on.

After the shocking revelations of Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal which saw 87 million user’s personal data breached and stolen, Facebook referred its users to their privacy settings. Anybody with a social media account should familiarise themselves with the privacy policies and amend their settings accordingly.

On Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, you can change your privacy settings to control who can see your news feed and your photos. Twitter allows users to choose whether to keep their Tweets public or private.

For parents, it is important to ensure their children’s privacy settings are set to secure. Sites such as Snapchat and Facebook can share a user’s location; however, changing the privacy settings can prevent your child’s location being unwillingly shared to strangers.

 

Here are some tips for keeping your children safe online:

 

Think of the Internet as a big, open space

You wouldn’t drop your child off at a big public place and expect everyone they meet to treat them with kindness and protect their best interests, would you? That is a good analogy for what happens when a child goes online unsupervised.

Be sure to keep a close eye on exactly who your child is talking to and when.

 

Be aware of the potential for bullying

While it’s probably the case that many children online will have pleasant interactions with friends and peers, when you have more opportunity for social interaction, you have more opportunity for rejection or bullying by peers. Keep an eye out for signs that your child may be a victim of bullying and educate yourself about bullying in school.

 

Know about something called Facebook Depression

Researchers say looking at Instagram or Facebook posts of happy events in other people’s lives can lower poor self-esteem. Explain to your child that what they see on social media is not always a reflection of what a person’s everyday real life is really like. People are unlikely to post about failures or mistakes or times when they are not feeling good about themselves. Images of shiny, happy people might only tell half a story.

 

Education about online profiles

Everybody with a social media account leaves themselves with an online profile which anybody can view. If you were to apply for a job, a potential employer could search your name and create a first impression of you before ever speaking to you – potentially harming your chances of getting a job. Remind your children to avoid bad language or any controversial/ offensive content on their profile. It’s always a good idea to have a regular clean-up of your social media by deleting images or statuses which may affect your reputation.

 

What else can I do to stay safe?

When people first sign up to social media, their first mission is to get as many likes and followers as possible. However, over time you find that you’re sharing information on social media with up to hundreds of people who you don’t know. When you are sharing private information you only want your close friends to see, consider those people you added ten years ago who you knew from a friend of a friend. If you feel harmed by somebody on social media, you can report and block them to stop any further danger.

The dangers of social media can also transpire outside of social networking sites. What seems like a safe link on your news feed could be there to trick you into clicking links and infecting your computer or stealing sensitive information. Always be aware of suspicious looking links and ‘fake news’ by questioning the authenticity of the website. If you see a news story from an unknown news website, search the story online first to see if any major news outlets have also reported it.

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