Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, are fun ways to keep in touch with friends and meet new people. However, you have to be careful about the information you put on these sites because it can sometimes lead to embarrassment and incidents of stalking, identity theft, and harassment. Keep these social networking tips in mind to ensure your well-being.
Change your privacy settings. The privacy settings will vary from site to site. Some social networking sites are totally public so anyone with access to the Internet can read the information that you post. Other social networking sites offer levels of privacy. If possible, be sure to set your profile to allow only your friends access to view it. Also, limit the information you include for the site's search engine.
Think before you post. Be careful about what you post on these websites. Pictures, comments, and blog entries can be saved and forwarded on to others. You should only post pictures and text that you wouldn't mind having other people see, including your parents, college admission officers, and prospective employers. Those pics of you at that wild party last weekend may impress your friends, but they won't do much to impress a potential employer. On the same note, leave offensive text (i.e. curse words, insults, etc.) out of your blog entries and comment postings to friends. You should also avoid posting information that reveals too much about you, such as your home address, your phone number, your e-mail address, etc. Never post dates or times that you will be at a certain location. There are malicious people in the world who peruse these sites to find their next victims. You can never be too safe!
Be wary of strangers. Because the Internet provides a sense of anonymity, it's easy for people to fake their identities and motives. If you begin communicating with a stranger on a social networking site, be careful about the information you share with that person. Be extremely cautious if he/she wants to meet you in person. If you decide to meet him or her, make sure the meeting takes place in public and be sure to take a friend with you. If the person is legit, he/she should have no problem abiding by your boundaries. Please note: If you are under the age of eighteen, we recommend that you do not meet face-to-face with someone you met online.
Choose quality over quantity. Be selective about who you choose to add to your friends/followers list. You don't have to add every person who sends you a friend/follow request. If, at any time, someone on your friends list or someone requesting to be on your friends list starts harassing you, block him or her from contacting you and report the harassment to the social networking site.
Create secure passwords. Create passwords for your social networking accounts that can't be easily deciphered. Passwords should include a mixture of capital letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. If you have a hard time remembering all of the characters of your password, another secure option would be to use a passphrase. A passphrase should be at least 14 characters long but doesn't need the mixture of numbers, symbols, etc. A passphrase of "My mom and dad are awesome." is much easier to remember than "M3rcyM@" and it's just as secure. Always keep your passwords private. Be alarmed if you are ever asked to enter your password to view certain profiles or videos on social networking sites. These may be fake popup windows created by hackers so they can hack into your computer or online information.
When used cautiously, social networking sites offer creative ways to interact with friends and come across new people. When used carelessly, these sites may expose people to embarrassment, identity theft, online predators, etc. Please remember to utilize these etiquette and safety tips when you are on social networking sites. With proper usage, these sites can be as harmless as they are popular.