Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn social media has transformed the ways in which we connect with each other personally and professionally, and has opened up opportunities to interact with people on the other side of the world as instantly and easily as with someone sitting next to us.
While youre enjoying the benefits of the technology, keep in mind that taking steps toward social media safety is as important as locking your car doors and keeping track of your purse or wallet. Keep these tips in mind when youre interacting online:
- Control access to your information. Carefully consider what you put in your social media profiles, and who you will share that information with. Identity thieves are known to prowl social media looking for useful information. Never include things like financial information (who you bank with), your home address or phone numbers, or your Social Security number in your profile information.
- Before you accept a request from someone to make a connection, be sure you know who that person is. Some people restrict their online interactions to people theyve met in person, or to friends of friends. If you want to make broader connections, do so carefully, and limit the information you share until you can be more confident of a new friend.
- Before you send that tweet or update your Facebook status, remember what you put on the Internet lives forever and can go anywhere. If its a photo you would be embarrassed for your boss to see, or a statement youd cringe if your mother overheard, think twice about putting it out into the world of social media.
- Be careful with your social media account passwords. Never use the same password for multiple accounts and remember strong passwords are at least eight characters long, and include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and/or symbols. Microsoft offers a great guide to creating strong passwords on its website.
- Stand up for yourself. If someone bullies or harasses you through social media, report it. Start with the provider; whether its Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or some other network, they all have rules of conduct intended to help protect users. Many problems can be solved with intervention from the web service, but if things continue or escalate, contact your local police.
- Follow the golden rule for your online interactions. Treat others on social media the way you would like to be treated.
Social media safety doesnt mean you have to give up the opportunity to meet new friends and connect with people from around the world. A few precautions and some common sense can help ensure your social media interactions remain safe and positive.