Facebook and Twitter are fun, but social networking safety is something everyone—adults and children—needs to take seriously.
Children can unknowingly disclose personal information that will let predators find them offline. Adults also unwittingly let slip details that get them into trouble—like the couple who tweeted during their vacation and came home to find their house burglarized.
Sometimes your worst enemy online is yourself. Young adults today increasingly find themselves rejected by colleges and employers because of something they once posted to a social media site. Even after they remove the embarrassing post from their online profile, these unfortunate young adults will discover that the post has been permanently archived somewhere else on the web—along with their name.
The easiest way to protect yourself online is to avoid giving away personal information in the first place. Choose a screen name that can’t be tied to you in any way—don’t use your name, your age, or your location. Don’t upload a photo.
You can improve your social networking safety further to...
Just as important as protecting yourself from the bad guys is protecting yourself from the good guys. The police frequently scan social networking sites looking for impromptu confessions of illegal activity. If you or your child writes even a private post about doing something illegal, you might just find police knocking on your door—even weeks or months after the crime was committed or confessed.
Most people use social networking websites to keep in touch with their friends and family, so they feel safe giving away their personal information—after all, these are the people who already know all of your personal details.
But few people take the time to discover what information about them becomes available to the general public. For example: your Facebook account may be set to keep your photos private, but your profile picture may be public. In one case, a school teacher was fired after changing her profile picture to a photo of her drunk at a party.
Social networking safety is especially important for
children who can be easily bullied. Any schoolyard cyber bully who gets
ahold of your child’s photo on a social networking website can use image
editing software to make it look like your child was doing something
inappropriate, and that photo will probably remain available on the
Internet for the rest of your child’s life.