Over the past few weeks, I have been doing a lot of thinking about social media safety. We always hear about the dangers of social networks for children but not much attention is paid to the safety factors for adults. The reality is that there are risk issues for all age groups who participate in online activities.
I know many parents who go through “Stranger Danger” talks with their kids. They teach them rules, let them know that they should set firm boundaries with online “friends” and check up on their Internet interactions. What about the adults, though? Are the same standards and safety procedures in place for us?
As much as I would like to think that we live in a safe world, this is not the case. Anybody who uses social media is at some sort of risk for danger. I am not trying to alarm anybody. That is not my goal but I think that there are strategies that we can all put into practice to make social media a safer space.
I would like to share some safety tips that we, as adults, can use to make the Internet safer for us.
- Watch out for your friends. If you notice that your friend is talking to someone who seems a little shady to you, kindly and gently mention it privately. I have done this before and my friends have responded with reactions like, “You think so, too? I thought that I was overreacting.” We all have to look out for one another.
- Fill out your social networking account profiles with enough information but not TOO MUCH information. If somebody looks at your profile, you want them to get a sense of who you are, without making yourself a target for things like identity theft or stalking. In my opinion, nobody should be able to see ALL of your personal information (name, address, phone number, hobbies, occupation, etc.) in your profile. Give pieces of that information but not ALL of it.
- Be sure to have a profile picture on your social media accounts. It does not have to be a close-up or anything special. People should be wary of connecting with you or speaking with you if you do not have a photo. Social media is about being social and part of that is having a face to go along with a name. I am ALWAYS suspicious if someone without a profile photo contacts me more than once. I do not like it and, in general, I will stop the communication.
- Write down your account passwords, put them in an envelope and hide the envelope. Tell a trustworthy person where the envelope is and what is in it. If you go missing or something happens to you, the person should have your consent to use your passwords to gather any information about your whereabouts and what might have happened to you. It could be life-saving.
- If you are ever meeting someone from the Internet IRL (in real life), make sure that somebody knows who you are meeting and where you will be. Leave some kind of trail, such as an email confirmation, to be used in case of emergency. It never hurts to casually tell the person you are meeting that other people know where you will be. You can say something as simple as, “I’m really looking forward to getting together. I mentioned it to my friend and she thinks that social networking is interesting, too.” A small comment like that might just register on the person’s radar and make you less of a vulnerable target.