The Internet and social media in particular have made it easy to share more of our personal lives with our friends. But, it’s also become easier to share with people we don’t even know.
Online privacy isn’t just about protecting your personal information - name, address and birthdate - to help prevent identity theft. It’s also about protecting you and your family from public embarrassment, from private conversations going public, and from stalking and bullying.
If you’re unsure whether you and your family are exposed or protected online, take a look at these four social media resolutions and adopt the ones that make sense for you. And, make this year more secure than last.
Review the privacy settings on your other social media accounts, too, from LinkedIn down to Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.
If you only use a site to connect with a small circle of friends, then you can probably select the most restrictive privacy settings for the greatest protection. For help, try these social media from the Center for Identity at the University of Texas at Austin.
- Your full birthdate. Share the month and day, if you like, but leave out the year you were born.
- Photos with geotag information that may allow strangers to identify where they were taken and thus where you live or where your kids go to school. Check your smartphone camera settings to turn off geotagging - ask Google for instructions, if needed.
- The address or other identifying factors of your home, office or child’s school. Even a photo showing the license plate number of your new car could reveal too much.
- Photos of other children unless you have their parents’ permission.
- Your travel plans. Posting about your trip before you leave or while you’re gone lets others know your home is unoccupied.
- Anything you wouldn’t want someone outside your network to read, such as a rant about your job or sensitive information about your work. Such posts have led to people getting fired.
In a similar category are the casual acquaintances you just made at all those holiday parties. Let the relationships ripen before you give them access to your personal information. And, be careful about your real-life friends who connect with anyone and everyone via social media; your secrets may be available to strangers through them.
Even once you allow them freer access online, it’s wise to monitor them until you feel confident in their decision making. Discuss frankly the risks that come from sharing too much, and the practices that reduce those risks. By staying involved, you can have an impact on how your teens use social media even when you’re not looking over their shoulder.
The Internet is a big place, and, while our own social networks may feel familiar and secure, they sometimes aren’t. So, connect and post with care, and adjust your privacy settings before sending that next Tweet.