Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Dark Side of Social Media and How to Remain Safe

It is estimated that 74% of U.S. adults and 81% of U.S. teens use social media on a regular basis. There are several negative aspects that go hand and hand with using social media. I have decided to focus on a few of them.

Real dangers can come with heavy use of social media, both online and offline. Improper use of social media can expose intimate details about your life, lead to identity theft, create an avenue in which children can be cyberbullied or become targets for online predators, and it could cause you to lose your job.

I have listed some key points in order to remain safe from some of the dangers of social media.

1. Consider your audience before posting
Avoid posting anything that might embarrass you or that you don’t want strangers to know. Gone are the days when only friends and family have access to your social media accounts. Current/potential employers, college admissions officers, and law enforcement officials are turning to social media for more information potentially about you. Remember that whatever you post online—photos, threads, messages—are pretty much permanent.

2. Avoid identity theft by playing it safe
Create a strong password and change it often. Use high security settings on social-networking sites. Use anti-virus and firewall software, and update regularly. Know the source and content of each file you download to avoid malicious malware. Never give your password to anyone. Monitor your bank statements and credit reports regularly.

3. Be mindful of cyberbullying and online predators
Kids can be verbally or socially harassed online in what is called cyber bullying. To avoid this try, to limit where your child posts personal information. If at all possible be a nosy parent and join them when they are online. Document cyber bullying: keep a digital record of any online activity (e-mails, Web pages, social media posts, etc.). Never hesitate to report the activity to the local authorities or school officials. If you think your child is a target of an online predator consider speaking openly with him/her about the dangers of online child predators and sex offenders.

4. Limit your time on social media
Social media can be a fun and enjoyable way to stay connected with friends and family, but be mindful of the amount of time you spend online. I personally have a Facebook account but my time online only amounts to about 30 to 45 minutes per week. Don’t let social media take over your life and hinder your job performance.

There are many books and online resources that cover this and other social media subjects in greater detail. So get social, enjoy yourself, but don’t go to the Dark Side of Social Media.

Image credit: Rosaura Ochoa

Andrei Jones
Five Points West Regional Branch Library

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