How to Stay Safe on Social Media

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Many of us love to go onto social media websites to connect and enjoy each other's life experiences. While this is usually harmless, there are some tips to follow to avoid falling prey to those that seek to harm you through social media. We will look at how to stay safe on social media in this lesson.

Social Media

Socializing has changed tremendously in the past 20 years. Socializing refers to interactions between people. At one point, socializing meant that you were getting together with family and friends. Now it often means that you are going on the Internet via social media or websites, which allow you to connect and interact with other people.

There are several social media outlets
Picture of social media icons

When you go out to meet up with friends, you probably take measures to make sure you are safe. This may mean traveling in groups and letting someone know when you get to your destination and back home. Just as there are precautions to ensure your safety when you meet face-to-face, there are precautions to make sure you are safe when you use social media.

Connecting Safely

One of the first things you can do to protect yourself when you are online happens before you even go onto a social media website. Make sure your computer is equipped with current computer security software. This is software that detects and gets rid of viruses that are harmful to your computer. These viruses are sometimes able to hack into your computer and steal your information, such as logins, when you use your computer.

Set strong passwords for every social media account. This is important to prevent people from being able to log into your social media account. You do not want anyone acting as you online and posting things that may offend your family, friends, or potential employers. Your passwords should ideally contain both capital and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. Having this combination makes it next to impossible to guess your password. Also, try your best to use different passwords for all your online accounts. Using the same one for everything can allow someone to log into every account you have online.

Be sure to use the known URL for the social media websites that you use. Connecting to the website this way ensures that you end up on the authentic website. There are times when someone may post a link in an email or text that looks similar to the real URL, but it takes you to a website that downloads programs onto your computer, allowing them to hack into your computer. If the link comes from someone you know really well, double-check with them to ensure they sent it before you follow the link.

All computers come with Internet security settings. These can be as relaxed or as limiting as you want them to be. It is recommended that the Internet security settings should be set to medium or higher to be protected. This will allow your computer to block pop-ups and warn you when you are about to go to a webpage that is considered dangerous.

Personal Identity and Information Safety

So now you are logged on and need to know how to protect yourself on your favorite social media websites. Remember a couple of rules to help you stay safe:

  • Do not post anything that you would not want broadcast to everyone in the world.
  • The 'Golden Rule' of life, treat others how you want to be treated.

Your safety stems from these two rules.

Protect Your Self

Personal identity information should not be posted or shared on social media. This includes phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, and family information. This information can be used to recreate your identity and should never be accessible online.

Make sure you know who you are connecting with on social media. If a name does not look familiar, or you are not sure that you want to be friends with a particular person on social media, then do not add them to your circle of social media friends. Keep in mind that this is an extension of who you would or would not socialize with in person. If you do not like a person in a face-to-face setting, then there is no reason to interact with them on social media. This opens the door for them to post negative information or images about you for others to see. If you have someone in your social media circle that frequently posts things that you do not feel comfortable with, then you should consider whether or not you want to keep that connection.

Use the privacy settings within the social media webpage. These can allow you to determine who can post information to your wall, as well as who can see what is posted on your wall. Let's face it, there are some things that you do not care if your family and close friends know, but you do not necessarily want your colleagues at work to find out that information from online posts.

We all love to let people know what we are doing. This can be dangerous if not done properly. Everyone that you think is your friend on social media may not really be your friend in real life. They can use information about when you are out or on vacation to know when no one is home. A dishonest person may break-in a lot easier knowing that you are vacationing on a different continent! Share your vacation after you have returned home. Don't post pictures of new electronics, furniture, or valuables. This opens your home up to being burglarized, as well.

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