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5 Ways to Stay Safe on Social Media

Photo by: iStock

These days it seems every moment, no matter how big or small, is snap-shotted for social media. It’s all about the experience and sharing it with everyone. But take a second to think about that. Everyone. Really? How well do you know the friends of your friends? Do you really want your personal photos, data and info let loose unto strangers? Kelly Taggart, CEO and co-founder at Purely Visual, a marketing and PR firm in Southern California, is an expert on what works for social media professionally, as well as personally and offers tips on keeping you and your family safe.

1. Use caution when checking in from an event, restaurant or your family vacation. When you use the check-in feature, that means you’re away from home and anyone sees your posts now knows it. Taggart advises, “It’s a smart move to avoid checking in while at a location and waiting until after you’ve returned from an event or vacation to post pics. Then you can caption them with past-tense descriptions like ‘Check out the waterfalls in Hawaii on our vacation last summer,’ and so forth.”

2. Remember that any picture you post can be stolen and altered, especially if you upload images using the “high quality” settings that some social media platforms allow. Imagine your daughter posting her prom photo. A predator could either right-click or even screenshot that image and manipulate it with imaging software to post it anywhere on the Internet. With the speed at which things go “viral” your child’s manipulated image could create major problems-the very least of which is to her or his reputation.

3. For Facebook in particular, always use the third privacy setting when you set up your profile. There are three levels of privacy: (1) open to everyone (2) open to friends of friends and (3) friends only. The safest option is (3) friends only. This setting allows only people that you’ve selected as friends to view your posts and information. And speaking of friends, only accept friend requests from people you know.

4. Think: Do I want the whole world to see this post? The reality is that once you release a post, it’s on the Internet pretty much forever. Thinking into your kids’ later years, do you want their future employers to see pics of them at a college frat party? And it’s not as easy as sending a friend a pic on your smartphone to “avoid” the universality of social media. That friend could share that photo with her friends and it could end up all over social media anyway.

5. Remember to monitor the privacy settings of the social media groups you’re in. You could go from a closed, friends-only group to a completely open group without being aware of it, especially if you have a lot of traffic on your profile and didn’t catch the group updates.

These tips are not meant to scare you away from social media. The key is to post judiciously and with the worst-case scenarios in mind. If you’re OK with them, then post away. If not, cover your baby’s face with a butterfly emoji and know that his nana and pop-pop will still see him in his Mickey Mouse hat at Disneyland. Safety is simply a mind-set and although it might take you a little while to remember these tips, they’ll become second nature soon enough.

Shelley Moench-Kelly, MBA is a New England-based freelance writer.

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