Social media and social networking sites have become a part of our daily life. In a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center1, 92% of teenagers in the United States check their social media accounts daily, 56% say they check their accounts several times a day and a 24% check them constantly.
Singapore’s statistics are even more interesting. In a 2012 study by the IDA for the Infocomm Technology Roadmap2, about 97% of Singaporean youth (aged 15-25) engage actively in social networking.
What this really means is that our teens connect constantly on social media networks and platforms, and a significant proportion of their social life is carried out within a virtual space.
The Dangers of Over-Exposure
Teens may not realise it, but it is all too easy to expose too much of yourself and your life on social media. Not everyone you call a friend is a true friend on social media. Some accounts can be completely false and there are malicious elements out there looking for a backdoor into your life and more.
Information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin can all be used to piece together a profile of who you are, where you go, and what you look like. Clever cyber criminals can use information like this to steal your identity, and even in some cases to guess your passwords and related account information.
5 Steps You Should Take
Educate yourself and your teens about the dangers of sharing too much. Teach them how to protect themselves by keeping some of these 5 steps in mind.
1. Manage Your Privacy Settings
Look at the privacy settings on all your accounts. Anything which could possibly be automatically posted on the internet, or shared by yourself or a friend should be reviewed. This covers not just the usual Facebook, twitter and linkedin accounts but also cloud related items such as google+ and photo sharing sites like flickr.
Most sites allow you to customise who can view different types of content you have. Try to restrict everything to just friends and family. Make sure that if there is anything selected under “public” that it is something which you have consciously chosen to do.
2. Keep Your Personal and Public Personas Separate
If you have a blog or a Facebook account which you use to reach out to a wider audience or for professional reasons, keep it separate from your personal accounts. This way, you can avoid accidentally sharing private or sensitive information with people you don’t know very well.
3. Keep Your Devices Clean and Virus Free
Keep your computers and any other devices free of viruses and malware by installing anti-virus protection. If you see any messages, emails or attachments which look suspicious don’t open them. If you need to, call the administrator of the contacting organisation to verify if it is a true request.
4. Don’t Share Information that Traces You
You might not realise it, but telling everyone you will be on vacation in the Maldives from 1st to 5th December will pretty much let them know that no one is likely to be in your home that week. Letting people know your favourite hangouts or your home address, personal phone number, regular schedule also gives someone else the ability to stalk you or impersonate you.
5. Do a Search on Yourself and Report any Abuse
Regularly do a search on yourself and see what turns up. If someone is impersonating you or posting untrue comments about you, take action. Contact the site’s administrator and request that it be taken down. In the case of malicious impersonation, you might want to take it a step further and get the authorities involved. Remember, whatever gets put on the web tends to stay there forever and if it isn’t you, then it’s hurting your reputation.
1 Pew Research Center, April 9 2015 “Teens, Social Media and Technology Review 2015”, Amanda Lenhart
2 IDA Singapore, Infocomm Technology Roadmap 2012 “Social Media”