Social media offers the ability to immediately connect with other people — and that has both good and bad implications.
Offering spaces where people virtually gather, social media is evolving to establish rules about what is acceptable behaviour online. Safety needs to be part of that evolution.
The Canada Safety Council encourages safe social media practices. These following safety tips have been compiled in collaboration with social media expert David Hall of David Hall Social Media.
Recognize that anything you do or say online becomes part of the public domain. In other words, once it’s out there, it’s nearly impossible to completely remove, even if you shut down your accounts. If it’s inappropriate in real life, it’s inappropriate online, too. Never post anything to your social media profiles that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with your employer or grandmother.
Confidential information should remain confidential. This can include your cellphone number, home address, full birth date, credit card and banking information, etc. Educate yourself about the dangers of online predators and scams, and learn how to avoid problems.
Understand and use the privacy settings of your social media accounts. Teach children and teens that social media reaches far beyond their group of friends. It extends to friends of friends and complete strangers.
Monitor what other people post on your social media profiles. Again, if it’s potentially embarrassing or problematic, and especially if it reveals confidential details, delete the content as soon as possible.
When posting on your friends’ profiles, consider whether you might be endangering their safety by publicizing the information. For example, publicly talking about their upcoming vacation dates may provide would-be thieves with useful information on the best times to break into an unoccupied home. Talk about topics such as these in private messages instead.
Be selective of who you add as friends and contacts on profiles such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Just like in real life, some people have less than good motives for gathering information.
If your safety is compromised because of repeated harassment or abuse, learn how to block people and change your identity online. If necessary, shut down your social media profiles, either temporarily or permanently. If you do decide to set up new profiles, make it difficult for people to find you unless you invite them to be part of your network.
If you use a public or shared computer, remember to log out of your profiles before leaving the computer. Never share your passwords.
Parents, guardians and educators should monitor the social media activity of children and teens in their care. Open, honest conversations need to be had about safety online, and what is and what is not allowed.
Social media safety starts with recognizing the potential for danger when your personal information is so easily accessible by so many people. Exercise good judgment to stay smart and stay safe online.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 5, 2013