You probably like going on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites to see what your friends are up to—and keeping in touch over the summer is so much easier! Sometimes, though, people use social media for the wrong reasons, and your safety could be at risk.
Here are some tips for using social media the right way and staying out of harm’s way:
If It’s Personal, Keep It That Way!
A lot of social media sites make it easy for others to see your information, and you may not even know it! Always check with an adult before entering any of your information online. A site may ask for your name, birthday, address, phone number or other information that you wouldn’t want just anyone to see.
Some sites require this information, but they have “privacy” settings allowing you to choose who can see what on your profile. Never make your information open to the public, because this could allow someone to locate you offline. And if you wouldn’t post it about yourself, don’t post your friends either.
The best choice is to not put your picture online, even if you think only your friends will see it. Others could take your picture and change it in ways you may not be happy with. A stranger could put your name and picture together and convince you that they know you in person. However, if you absolutely have to put your picture up, check with your parents first. A good rule of thumb is don’t put a picture up that your mom wouldn’t hang on the wall! Don’t put pictures up if you are in a swimsuit, PJs or similar.
When adding “friends” online, limit it to only your real friends. Add only people you go to school with or know personally. If you don’t recognize their names, don’t add them! Also keep in mind that people aren’t always who they seem to be. Anyone can make up a fake name or profile—so be cautious. Make sure you know exactly what people you are connecting with.
Be Nice …
Cyber-bullying has become a real problem lately, and it can have some pretty hurtful effects. If you wouldn’t say something in person, don’t say it online. If someone is being hurtful or inappropriate to you online, tell an adult you trust. If it is getting serious, you may want to consult your school guidance counselor for help.
Location, Location, Location
Checking in or tagging your location on social media makes you an easy target, especially if your profile is open to the public. Just think—a stranger could see your name, what you look like and know right where to find you. Just don’t do it! If you are discussing meet-up plans with a friend, send it in a message; don’t post it openly on his or her profile.
Tag, You’re It!
Just because you don’t post any pictures, doesn’t mean your friends won’t. Keep in mind that friends have the ability to post whatever they want, including photos of you. If you don’t want others to see these pictures, ask them politely not to “tag” you, so your name is not connected to the photo. You can also delete any tags that your friends have done.
Social media can be a wonderful tool for connecting with your friends, but always keep safety in mind when posting or interacting!
Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens (Federal Trade Commission)
Social Web Tips for Teens (Connect Safely)