Learning Center

Surf Social Media Safely

road sign with social media lanes

Be careful with the information you put online.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites are fun to use and a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. If you’re not careful, though, you could be giving away the kinds of personal information that can lead to cyber or real-world crime aimed at you and your friends.

With a little caution and common sense, you can reduce your exposure to people trolling social media with criminal intent.

Social media is growing fast

As of January 2013, there were approximately a billion active users on Facebook. That works out to one in seven people worldwide that have a profile on this social medium. Only 50 percent of those Facebook users, though, check their privacy settings regularly. Even then, studies show users are unlikely to change privacy settings that often.

And that’s just Facebook.

As of late 2013, Twitter had more than 250 million active users, and Pinterest, still a relatively new social network, was rapidly expanding with more than 25 million users.

If you’re active on social networks, maintaining privacy should be of the utmost importance.

Here’s what you can do.

Watch what you post

Think about your personal Facebook profile. Do you include your birthday, family members, where you grew up, pictures of your home, where you’re headed on vacation and where you work or go to school?

If so, you’re highlighting your life and upcoming plans.

Such a blueprint of activity could provide information that could lead to cyber bullying; real-world threats like burglary or stalking; a damaged reputation or identity theft.

If you tweet, know that every time you hit send your message winds up at the Library of Congress, where it’s documented forever. The only way to remove it is to delete the tweet. But even then it doesn’t evaporate completely. People will always be able to find it with enough digging.

Rule of thumb: Assume everything you post on social mediums is permanent.

Other social media safety tips:

  • Avoid giving away personal email addresses. Highlighting such material allows businesses or other advertisers to scan your address book.
  • Regularly review privacy settings and friend lists.
  • Be cautious when deciding whether to click a link.
  • Know who you’re accepting as a friend.
  • Extend care when installing extra applications on your site.

Photo sharing
Sharing pictures through Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, Pinterest or similar sites also requires thought. When taking pictures, be aware of your surroundings. Are there school logos in the background? Is the picture available to the general public? Do you have GPS tracking on the smartphone you used when the photo was snapped?

Other photo safety tips:

  • Post photos to arranged lists of people so you know who has access to them.
  • Disable GPS when taking photos with a smartphone.
  • Beware of personal information in photos, such as addresses, names on shirts, etc.
  • Always assume pictures are permanently discoverable.

Social media is fun, and often encouraged. Make sure you’re taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your family and your plans.

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