Connecting with new people is a good thing, especially when you are a newcomer yourself. You might feel lonely in the USA, and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can help you feel more connected to your new country. But social media sites can be dangerous. It is important to understand the dangers so you can protect yourself.
How do we protect ourselves in everyday life?
When you connect with people on social media sites, think about how you behave with people you know and don’t know in real life:
- You communicate freely with those you know and trust – your family and close friends.
- You are more careful with people you do not know or have just met.
- You don’t tell strangers everything about your personal life.
- You don’t give your money or the key to your house to strangers or people you just met.
Use this same approach to stay safe from the dangers of social media!
10 ways to protect yourself from the dangers of social media
1. Protect your data on social media sites
Your personal information is sometimes called data. You never need to give out important personal data, such as ID numbers, bank numbers, passwords, or your address on social media sites. To keep their users safe, social networks have privacy settings you can use to make your information (data) safe.
Keep your data safe on Facebook
When you put your data on Facebook, and when you sign into apps and websites, you are giving access to your data. These apps and websites may use your data in ways you do not want. Mostly they use it to let advertisers sell you products.
You can stop apps and websites from using your data. In Facebook, go to your settings. To find your settings, click the «v» (down symbol) in the top right corner of your screen and select «settings.» Then click on «Apps and Websites» in the list on the left. Then you will see the apps that have access to your data. You can click on each app to edit what access they have. To stay safe on social media, you can also delete apps altogether.
Here is a simple guide about how to manage all your different privacy settings to protect yourself from the dangers of social media.
Use strong passwords
Internet security experts always advise us to have strong and different passwords for all our accounts. They also advise us to use two-factor authentication (extra steps for logging in) or a password manager. You can find out about password managers here.
2. Stay private on social media sites
Don’t share personal details or pictures online that you would mind anyone seeing, like your boss at work. You might think you are sharing just with your close friends and family, but once something is online, it can be shared more widely. Also, once it is online, you can’t get rid of it because other people have copies of it. Many people have been fired or turned down for a job because of their online profiles.
3. Don’t believe everything and everyone
We are learning more every day about how social media is used to trick people. A lot of information on social media is false. Sometimes, people on social media are not even real people, and often things are not real facts at all. This might be people with false names or a “bot” (a robot set up as a fake person). It might be fake news reports or official-looking messages pretending to be from a government or business official.
Do not believe everything you read on social media. If you read something, check with other sources, such as a national newspaper website.
If you receive a message online saying it is from the government or a business, do not respond with your personal information.
Learn more about misinformation and disinformation.
4. Stay safe offline, too
Think of your security in the real world when you post information about your activities. You don’t need to have your address online and then post vacation pictures to let everyone know you are away. If you post on Facebook while your family is on vacation, people will know your home is empty.
In addition, you might sometimes post where you are or «check into» places. Think about if you should do this or not.
Be very careful if you meet someone in person
Social media sites make it easy for people to make up identities. Online, they can pretend to be someone else. If you connect with someone online, never arrange to meet that person alone or go to their house or invite them to your house unless you know that they are who they say they are. Always meet strangers in a public place and when there are other people around.
5. Don’t send money or passwords
Don’t send money to anyone when you are not 100% sure they are who they say they are. Government offices, such as the IRS, and real businesses, such as Microsoft, do not tell you to send money directly to strange bank accounts. Nor do they ask for your password to anything. Do not send your password to anyone that you meet social media sites or other places on the internet.
6. Protect yourself from hostile or unkind people
Refugees and immigrants may be targeted by hostile or unkind people. Don’t accept friend requests from people you do not know. Immediately block anyone who posts something threatening on any of your accounts. Do not respond. Do not write rude or hostile things that may make you even more of a target. Report personal threats to the police and to the social media site they were posted on.
7. Protect yourself from scams and hackers
Don’t click on links just because they are sent to you, even if they come from a friend (they may not know the link is dangerous, or they may have been hacked). Just delete them. Nothing important will be sent to you that way. It is more likely that links you did not request contain viruses that will harm your device or let people into your device to steal your information, your money, and your identity. And remember: any offer that seems too good to be true IS too good to be true! If you receive a message saying you will get lots of money from someone you don’t know, delete it!
8. Keep your children safe
Even if you don’t use social media or understand it, you will need to learn enough about it to keep your children safe from the dangers of social media sites. If you do use social media yourself, protect your children by not putting information about them online. If you don’t use social media, ask your children what social networks they use. They can be exposed to bullying, to sexual predators, and to bad content and advertising. Here is some good information about protecting your children online. It includes tips to keep kids safe and lists of different social media terms to be aware of.
Many technology experts recommend you only let young children use a smartphone or computer in front of you. You will have to decide for your child, but most experts recommend you do not let children have smartphones or computers in their rooms at night time.
9. Social media safety for teenagers
Being bullied online is a big concern for teenagers. This is called cyber-bullying. It is when teenagers are mean to other teenagers online. If your children are bullied, do not have them respond to the bullies. This cyber-bullying website has detailed tips for teens including information sheets on cell phone safety, sexting and other topics.
10. Don’t get addicted!
Use social media to stay connected with the people you care about, but don’t spend hours looking at things that aren’t important in the real world. Social media companies design their sites and apps to keep you hooked. That’s how they make money.
About social media
Social media are networks, or ways to connect with other people. Social networks include Facebook, Twittter, Snapchat and Instagram – any app or website where you connect with people you know or don’t know. LinkedIn works like a social network, but for jobs and careers. Chat rooms and matchmaking websites are other forms of social media. Even YouTube counts as social media, because anyone can post videos and comments there.
Why is it called social media?
Social means anything to do with society or a group, such as friendly activities and interacting with other people. Media is the plural of the word medium, which is a channel or method of communication. We use media to mean mass communication, like television, radio, or the internet.