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How to Stay Safe on Social Media?

    Social media has become an integral part of our lives. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok allow us to connect with friends, share life updates, and find entertainment. However, social media does come with risks to your privacy, security, and mental health. With more awareness and some proactive steps, you can enjoy social media while staying safe online.

    Be Careful What You Share

    The first step to social media safety is being careful about how much personal information you share. While it’s natural to share life updates and photos with friends, oversharing can make you vulnerable. Avoid revealing private details like:

    • Your full name
    • Home address
    • Phone number
    • Birthdate
    • Location data from photos
    • School or workplace
    • Daily routines like jogging routes

    Also refrain from sharing personal stories or photos that could be embarrassing if the wrong people saw them. Remember that anything you post online can potentially be seen by strangers, hackers, employers, college admissions officers, etc. It’s safest to only share personal details privately through messaging apps.

    Adjust Your Privacy Settings

    Each social media platform has privacy settings that control who can see your posts and profile information. Set your profiles to private so only approved friends or followers see your content.

    On Facebook:

    • Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings and set who can see your posts to “Friends”
    • Customize settings for tags, facial recognition, and restricting ad targeting

    On Instagram:

    • Go to Settings > Privacy and enable “Private Account”
    • Disable “Activity Status” and “Show Activity Status”

    On Twitter:

    • Go to Settings and Privacy > Privacy and Safety and check both boxes under Photo Tagging and Location Tagging
    • Disable allowing message requests from anyone

    On TikTok:

    • Go to Settings & Privacy > Privacy and enable “Private Account”
    • Disable “Suggest your account to others”

    Regularly check platforms for new privacy controls. Enable two-factor authentication for accounts when possible.

    Limit Personal Info in Your Username or Bio

    Your username and bio are public info, so avoid including:

    • Full real name
    • Birthdate or age
    • Hometown
    • Phone number or email

    Also don’t link other social accounts that reveal personal details, like LinkedIn. Write a vague, harmless bio. Get creative with your username like using a nickname.

    Be Wary of Strangers

    Exercise caution when interacting with people you don’t know online. While some connections are harmless, predators and scammers lurk on social media.

    • Don’t accept follow or friend requests from strangers. Ignore messages from unknown accounts.
    • Conduct video chats only with people you know well. Don’t share links or photos with strangers.
    • Verify people are who they claim to be by asking for details only real friends would know or seeing their accounts on other platforms.

    If a stranger’s account seems suspicious, block them. Warning signs include:

    • No posts or followers
    • Generic or copied bios
    • Requests for personal information
    • Talk of gifts or easy money

    Limit Location Tagging or Checking In

    It’s best not to tag locations on posts or check-in at businesses on social media. Doing so announces your location to strangers.

    On Facebook:

    • Disable location services for the app in your device settings
    • Manually untag yourself from posts where others tagged your location

    On Instagram:

    • Go to Settings > Security > Location Services and disable location tag abilities
    • Avoid naming specific locations in captions

    On Twitter:

    • Disable precise location tagging in app settings
    • Be vague if mentioning locations in tweets (“dinner downtown” vs restaurant name)

    Check your old posts and remove any location tags. Sites like Snapchat Map can share your location – disable this feature.

    Use Strong Passwords

    Having weak passwords on social media accounts poses a serious security risk. Hacked accounts can expose private data. Follow password best practices:

    • Use 8-12 character passwords with upper/lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
    • Avoid common words, phrases, or patterns
    • Enable two-factor authentication
    • Use a password manager
    • Change passwords every 90 days
    • Don’t repeat passwords between accounts

    If you save passwords in your browser, be sure others don’t have access to your device. Never share passwords publicly or in messages.

    Limit Ad Targeting

    Much of the advertising you see on social media relies on data collected about you. To reduce this tracking:

    On Facebook:

    • Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings > Ads and disable ads based on data from partners and Facebook usage

    On Instagram:

    • Go to Settings > Security > Ads and disable personalized ads

    On Twitter:

    • Go to Settings and Privacy > Privacy and Safety > Personalization and Data and disable personalized ads

    On TikTok:

    • Go to Settings & Privacy > Ad Preferences and opt out of personalized ads

    Disable ad personalization on sites like Google and Amazon. Browse social media in incognito/private modes.

    Be Selective About Apps

    Exercise caution before connecting third-party apps to social media accounts.

    • Don’t take unnecessary risks with niche apps that seem sketchy or request lots of permissions.
    • Thoroughly read app descriptions, reviews, privacy policies, and requested permissions.
    • Avoid sharing login credentials directly with third-party apps – use official authorization flows.
    • Revoke app permissions you are no longer using in account settings.

    Only use apps from established developers that collect minimal data for necessary functions.

    Verify Links and Sources

    Fake news and phishing scams are unfortunately common on social media. Don’t click suspicious links in posts, bios, or messages without verifying them first.

    • Hover over the link to preview the URL – look for misspellings or strange domains
    • Google the page title and search for scam reports
    • Check if the account spreading the link seems reputable
    • Use sites like Virustotal to scan links

    Social media scams utilize FOMO and urgency to spread – approach outrageous claims with skepticism. Verify information through reputable news sites.

    Limit Time Spent

    While social media can be useful in moderation, compulsive use harms productivity and mental health. Set limits to prevent addiction:

    • Delete apps from your smartphone and access sites in a web browser
    • Utilize built-in time management tools on iOS and Android
    • Use apps like Freedom to block sites during work hours
    • Take social media breaks for set periods like a week
    • Find new hobbies to fill your time offline

    When you do use social media, avoid mindless scrolling. Consciously interact with a purpose, then log off. Spending too much time online can lead to unhealthy social comparisons and digital toxicity exposure.

    Protect Your Mental Health

    Seeing curated or fake realities on social media generates feelings of inadequacy or anxiety for many people. Practice self-care:

    • Unfollow accounts that trigger envy or negative emotions
    • Limit time spent reading comments and news
    • Take breaks when you start feeling depressed or insecure
    • Remember that social media shows highlight reels, not reality

    If you start to feel bullied, harassed, or threatened:

    • Report abusive users through platforms’ reporting tools
    • Block accounts sending harmful messages
    • Mute users who leave negative comments
    • Turn off notifications for periods of time

    Seek in-person connections and professional help if social media affects your self-worth or relationships. No amount of likes or followers can compare to real-world bonds.

    Set a Good Example

    Parents and educators have a responsibility to model safe social media use.

    To be a good digital role model for kids:

    • Maintain privacy settings and avoid oversharing
    • Discuss online etiquette and kindness
    • Monitor children’s accounts and usage
    • Educate them about red flags like strangers or phishing
    • Lead by example on limiting social media time

    Guide children to use technology responsibly. Work to build their confidence and interests offline too.

    Conclusion

    Social media doesn’t have to be scary with the right approach. Take charge of your experience by being selective about sharing, interacting thoughtfully, and staying aware. Prioritize your privacy, security, reputation, and mental health as you connect online. With care and moderation, social platforms can enrich your relationships and life – just remember to log off regularly.