Social media offers unprecedented opportunities for communication, community-building, connection and even commerce. However, revealing personal information online comes with inherent dangers, including loss of privacy and identity theft. These nine social media safety tips will help protect you and your family from online hazards.
Use Smart Passwords
Many people choose passwords that are relatively easy to crack by including their birthday, kids’ names and other easily available data. Ideally, your password should be a random combination of numbers and letters that would be impossible for an unscrupulous third party to guess. Change your password every three months in case it has become compromised without your knowledge.
Using the same password or rotating between a few different passwords puts your online accounts at risk. That’s because if hackers get access to one password, they can use it to gain access to anywhere you spend time online. Password manager software can help you create and maintain safe passwords.
Opt for Two-Factor Authentication
When a social media site provides this option, take advantage by entering your cell phone number. Then, when you enter your password on the site, you’ll also be required to enter a code sent to your phone. This type of log-in system is more secure than simply entering a password because it requires you to verify your identity twice.
Review Privacy Settings
Most social media sites provide customizable privacy settings so you can choose what to reveal and more importantly, what not to reveal. Always keep your address, phone number, Social Security number, financial details and other identifying data completely off social media. Adjust your settings so you only share updates with trusted family and friends. In addition, you should limit the ability of third parties to share your posts.
Remember that anything you share electronically will live online forever. Even if you think a message, email or Snapchat is private, it can be screenshotted and shared with others in a not-so-private way. Avoid posting anything if you wouldn’t want it to become public knowledge.
Although many parents share images of their children, others prefer to restrict the information available online about minors. Get permission before sharing photos of a family member or friend, especially if children are pictured. Do not tag these photos with the person’s full name or other identifying details.
Don’t post information about your current location on social media, especially if you have many followers and don’t know them well. This is especially important if you are on vacation, since anyone who sees your post will know that your home is empty and unguarded. Save the photo sharing of your beach paradise until after you return to town.
If you receive a request to connect online or a private message from someone claiming to be a friend or family member, make sure the communication really came from that person before taking action. Sometimes, hackers set up realistic fake profiles to commit fraud. If a profile or message seems fishy, it probably is.
Limit Third-Party Applications
Apps make our lives easier, but they may also access our data and don’t necessarily keep it secure. Avoid using your social media accounts to log into third-party apps, especially when you are required to let the app view or edit your data. If it is absolutely necessary to allow access, limit permission to view only.
Update Your Software
Anti-virus software can’t protect you from attacks through social media if it isn’t updated. You should also install regular updates to your operating system, web browser and other programs when prompted to do so. Often, these updates contain important security patches that fix existing vulnerabilities.
Block Problematic Individuals
If someone has harassed you on social media, attempted to access your information or otherwise made you uncomfortable, use the block button to prevent them from seeing your posts and online activities. Avoid using social media sites that do not offer a block function.
If you receive obscene or harassing comments, do not respond. However, you should keep a record and share it with the site administrator in case you need to take further action against the offending person. A social media private investigator can help if you aren’t sure who is bothering you online.
Delete Old Accounts
As technology advances and trends come and go, we have all left behind a staggering number of email addresses and social media accounts we no longer use. Instead of leaving your old accounts as a digital graveyard, delete them completely to prevent unauthorized access. Even if you haven’t logged into an account in years, it could still contain personal information that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands.
Staying safe on social media is essential to keep private information private and protect your emotional well-being. These tips will boost your security profile and get you on the path to enhanced online privacy.