It is undeniable that social media is a prevalent part of our world today. Surveys show that about 72% of Americans use social media, which is just about 230 million people. Platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok are most commonly used along with YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. These platforms have tremendous potential positive benefits, such as finding community support for specific activities or issues, sharing music or sports, and staying connected with friends. Social media is not only used for personal use but often used by large businesses and can be used as creative outlets and teaching resources. Social media allows anyone with access to a platform to start a business or even secure a job. Such a powerful tool, however, can come with its risks.
Almost 90% of teenagers between the ages of 13-17 have used social media, with a majority reporting that they visit a social media site on a daily basis. This percentage will only increase in the future with the emergence of new technologies. As social media grows, so does the amount of personal information that is on the internet. Each new account is a new set of information about yourself which you are releasing to the world, containing sensitive information such as birthdays, addresses, credit card numbers, etc. It’s incredibly important to exercise caution on social media sites and protect this information from cybercriminals. Here are some of the most essential steps you can take to stay safer.
Protect Your Privacy Settings
When joining a new social media platform, be sure to update your privacy settings to how you feel comfortable. Some platforms will allow you to choose between public and private settings, in which you can carefully filter which people are allowed to see your profile and interact with you. Public settings can allow for privacy breaches, as your personal details are open to anyone to see. Make sure to keep certain things private in your close friends’ circle especially when it comes to posting content online.
Additionally, it can be potentially dangerous to broadcast your location on public social media accounts, as it can allow anyone to know your whereabouts. Be aware that not everyone on these platforms has your best interests at heart; teenagers and younger individuals are often the most vulnerable to cyberattacks if not careful.
Secure Your Login Access
It is important to keep secure and complex passwords for your accounts. Some sites will require you to use complex long passwords involving capital letters and special characters, and as annoying as this may seem, it’s important for your own security! Passwords are meant to be a wall of defense against cybercriminals, so it is also important not to write them down and never to share them with other people, even friends. Stay away from passwords that include your name or other obvious information, and it’s best to avoid using the same password across all accounts. See if your password is strong!
Furthermore, when possible, employ two-factor authentication and other provided security and privacy options. Two-factor authentication is an additional level of security to your accounts and asks for an additional log-in credential to gain access to your account, and it will involve access to something you own. For example, on Instagram, when logging in to an account you will be asked to enter a special login code often sent by text message. You can read more about this and set it up here.
Finally, as is necessary with any form of technology, it is essential to be careful of viruses or malware attacks. Phishing can occur with social media sites with warnings that your account has been hacked or login alerts – make sure that any alerts are from the legitimate platform which you are using. Oftentimes, criminals may use fake emails from large social media platforms to trick you into clicking a link that can cause malware attacks or trick you into giving up sensitive login information. Be careful about what kind of information you are sharing over the internet, as well as in real life.
Social media has become such an integral part of modern culture, and these methods of interaction will not go away in the near future. It provides us with opportunities that could only be dreamed of years ago, and new innovations will open the door to much more in the future. It’s important to protect your information and stay alert about your security on social media.
 Aacap. (2018, March). Social Media and Teens. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Social-Media-and-Teens-100.aspx.