Social media is fast becoming a part of everyday life for lots of young people. It can be a great way of communicating with friends, keeping up to date with what’s going on or just catching up with the latest viral videos. Whatever you use social media for, it’s important to know how to keep yourself safe and what to do if things go wrong. We’ve provided advice below and if you need more advice or support, check out our sources of support page for more details.
The ‘Digital Tattoo’
People don’t always behave the same online as they would in person and sitting behind a screen can make people feel a sense of protection and safety. Sometimes, this can be a good thing as it may help someone to feel more confident but it can also make people take risks and do things that they wouldn’t normally do.
It’s important to remember that once you have put something on the internet, whether it’s a photo, a video or just a post, it’s out there forever and you have no control and very few rights over it. Just like a tattoo, what you put online is virtually impossible to get rid of.
You should always think about how what you do online makes you look to other people. Imagine applying for a job in the future and them coming across photos or memes that you have posted today. It is increasingly common for employers to do some social media stalking before offering jobs nowadays.
As well as employers, people who you know (or perhaps even those that you don’t) could take embarrassing images or videos that you have posted online and use them to manipulate or bully you. This is particularly concerning when you are thinking of sending a sexual image of yourself. For more advice on this you can check out our sexting and cyberbullying pages.
Know who you’re sharing with
As you can’t see the person that you’re talking to online and often you can be sharing updates, photos and videos with lots of people, it’s important to make sure that you know who those people are and that they are who they say they are. Sounds complicated? Follow the simple steps below to keep yourself safe:
- Tighten up your privacy settings – Review and update your privacy settings regularly and make sure that they are set to friends/followers only as a minimum so that only people that you have added can see what you share.
- Check your contacts regularly – Remember to keep your contacts lists up to date and get rid of anyone that you don’t know or no longer want to share your updates with.
- It’s easy for people to try and set up fake profiles to pretend to be someone they’re not. Check how long the account has been made for, check their photos and friends list to make sure that it’s someone that you know. Remember you can always ask a friend in person or by texting them to confirm if they have sent you a social media request before you accept them.
Remember that taking all of these steps helps to keep you safe but doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be problem free on social media – keep alert and remember if you’re not sure about someone that you have added, remove and block them. They don’t get a notification that you’ve blocked them and you can always change your mind and unblock them.
Keep your personal details secure
You should always think that no-one else will keep your personal information as securely as you will. Think before you share any personal data – do you really need to?
You should never share information like your phone number, address, passwords or bank details through social media. Also think about whether you are giving away information without realising – for example posting a picture of yourself at school or in school uniform can easily give away the area that you live in.
Keep your passwords secure and change them regularly. You should avoid using passwords that are short or easy to guess as this makes you an easy target for hackers.
Think before you share
Before sharing anything online, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I know who I am sharing this with and do I want them all to see it?
- Will I feel guilty / embarrassed about sharing this later?
- Would I do/say this in person?
- Could what I am saying or sharing get me into trouble?
- Will what I am sharing upset anyone?
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