Social Media Awareness
Social media certainly has a lot to offer, be it enabling friends and family who live far apart to remain connected, to allowing people to find and engage with groups of like minded individuals. Businesses can also take advantage of social media, using it to reach potential customers by advertising their products and services, while also presenting a vibrant and dynamic commercial profile.
Despite these many benefits, it is important to be aware of the potential risks social media poses, especially to children. Studies have shown the use of social media can lead to numerous mental health issues, including but not limited to depression and anxiety. The 2022 Global Overview Report revealed that internet users spend an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes per day on social media - a huge amount of time which could surely be put to better use.
Perhaps the greatest danger posed by social media is oversharing information. Someone may happily post on their account how they are looking forward to the holiday they are taking next week, without giving a thought to how they have just advertised to the whole internet their home is soon to be unoccupied. No one would use a megaphone to announce to crowds of strangers how they are planning to leave their domicile unattended for a couple of weeks, but if you post such details on social media, that`s very likely what you are doing. Burglars are known to trawl through Facebook and Instagram posts, looking for just such details. Most people are very lax with the security settings on their accounts, meaning anyone can view their posts. Even if your address isn`t actually displayed on your account, your approximate location is sure to be revealed, and certain photos you have uploaded, perhaps showing the front of your home, will be enough for a diligent burglar.
The first step towards ensuring your time on social media sites is spent safely is to alter the privacy settings of your accounts. All social media platforms will have the facility to fine tune who can see the posts you make. The available options may seem quite daunting at first, as you will be given the choice to allow friends, friends of friends, or only a pre-selected group of people to see your posts. A safe option would be to only permit those people you have accepted as friends to see anything on your social media accounts. That way no one but those individuals you have approved can see anything on your account - though even here there may be a caveat, as your name, profile image, and other basic information pertaining to your account may still be visible to anyone.
Many people`s social media accounts have hundreds, or even thousands of friends - and while it may be comforting to believe you know so many people, the likelihood is that only a vanishingly small number of people on that long list are actual friends. There is little purpose in going to the trouble of fixing your privacy settings to only allow friends to view your posts, if you cannot be certain that everyone on your friends list is someone you know and trust. By casually and complacently accepting every friends request you receive, you are potentially allowing total strangers to view all your posts and photographs. Many people routinely cull their friends list every few weeks, unfriending anyone they don`t recognise, but it would be better to exercise prudence when you actually accept someone`s request. Do you actually know the person? If you are not completely certain you know who they are you should not accept their request.
Regardless of how you have tailored your privacy settings, you should always be careful about what you post online. Never give out the name of your school, your date of birth, or any other personal information that could potentially be used by hackers or scammers to give the correct answers to password reset questions on your accounts.
You should be aware that anything you post online could be viewed by potential employers in the future; and what you find amusing today may be a source of embarrassment in the future. Many employers routinely inspect social media accounts, of both current and prospective employees, so you should be judicious in what you choose to upload.