Social media is a blessing and a curse, giving us never-before-known ways to connect with friends and family, past and present. Unfortunately, from our seat behind the computer screen, social media can often feel anonymous – something it definitely is not.
Smart social sharing is a learned skill, and one that is infinitely important today. Here are six tips to get you started on using social media wisely, and on keeping your kids safe and secure as they surf the social net.
1. Educate Yourself
“Know thy enemy” – it’s never been truer than in today’s environment of rampant social sharing. Yes, social media can be dangerous so the first step to using it safely is to understand each network – the differences between Facebook and Twitter, for example: how privacy policies work, who sees your posts, if you can limit the reach of your photos, and other details.
And if you’re a parent, feel free to get a little crazy with your research. Don’t just read up on the social networks you use, but the ones your kids might use that you do not.
2. Talk to Your Kids
And speaking of your kids and social networks, the best thing you can do is talk with them, about them. That is, talk to your children about their social network usage. Never assume they won’t use a network just because it’s forbidden; peer pressure can do incredible things.
Instead, set reasonable guidelines. Keep their accounts private. And as your kids get older, talk about the dangers – predators and misuse of public photos and bullying – and potential consequences of even innocent social media usage. If possible, keep the computer in a common area. Encourage your kids to come to you with questions and concerns.
3. Dread the TMI (+ 3 things you should never share online)
TMI, or too much information, runs rampant on social media sites. Be smart and remember that social media is really anything but private: if you wouldn’t say it out loud, for all to hear at the grocery store, don’t say it online.
And with that in mind, here are five things you should never, ever post online, no matter the circumstances:
• Your vacation plans: It’s practically an invitation for burglars. Save your stories and photos for after you’ve come home.
• Personal identifying info: Help prevent identify theft by withholding information like your social security number (even the last 4 digits), your mother’s maiden name, your street address, and your home telephone number.
• Embarrassing info about your kids: Someday, that adorable toddler seated on the potty will be a mortified teenager experiencing all of adolescence’s horrifying changes. Be compassionate.
4. Social Media is Not a Popularity Contest
On personal social sites like Facebook, don’t accept friend requests from every Tom, Dick and Harry. Only friend the people you see face to face and know well. Even be cautious about friending coworkers: if you post personal photos, like the ones from that 4th of July party where you maybe possibly drank one too many, it may be better to relegate coworker relationships to the office.
5. Get Intimate With Your Privacy Settings
Privacy settings are your best friend, so get to know them. There are dozens of articles online about privacy settings for every social network, so whether you want to keep your account open or lock it down tight, there’s a tutorial guaranteed to help. And while you’re at it, dig into your children’s social media privacy settings and make sure they’re impregnable.
6. Google Yourself
Every few months, Google your name. This’ll give you a good idea of your public online presence, and will also let you see how any random person views your social profiles. (Again with those 4th of July photos!) If you see something you don’t like, revisit tip #5 and enact tighter, more private settings.