Social Networking Safety: An Often Overlooked Step

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.

Social Networking Safety

How To Protect Yourself Online

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...

  • Make yourself familiar with the data privacy policy and business conditions of the selected social network before you create an account.
  • Adjust the privacy settings of the selected social network right after account creation and before you maintain any further information, to make sure it’s protected from the search engines.
  • Think twice if you are being contacted by complete strangers who want to become your friend. Criminals focus on “collecting” friends to attack them later. Those individuals provide links to their friends which point to phishing websites or websites which infect your computer with computer viruses.
  • Google yourself at regular intervals to make sure that your privacy settings stay in effect. This task can be automated easily by using Google Alerts. Enter your full name, a valid email address and the search interval there and Google will take care of the rest. They will send you the results in form of a detailed report.
  • Report individuals which try to contact or downbeat you on a regular basis to social network carriers.
  • Use individual usernames and secure passwords for different social networks. Be aware that your personal data when being stored on foreign computers can be hacked at any times. If abuse becomes known contact the carrier of the social network and your friends as fast as possible (of course not over the social network).
  • Don’t provide any sensitive information about your person over social networks as they can be used by other persons for identity theft. Also don’t provide information about your friends, your employer or work. Be aware that all those kind of information can also be misused by others ( e.g. you can be identified as an interesting social engineering target)

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.

Social Networking Safety Risks

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.

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