Social Networking Safety
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
Social networking sites are here to stay. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 74% of online adults use them. Usage is even higher among teenagers, as 77% of online teens use social media and 93% of social networking teens are on Facebook. It’s a part of the online experience.
Social networking offers many benefits. People connect with distant relatives, reconnect with old friends, and meet new people to discuss anything from movies and books to recipes and gardening. Nevertheless, social networking safety is an important topic for users of all ages.
You often don’t deal with people face-to-face on social networking sites. You might rarely or never see them offline. This can create opportunities for abuse.
Hackers can phish and spoof an account to steal personal information. Anonymity online can fuel cyberbullying among kids and cyberharrassment (such as cyberstalking) among adults. Some people create fake accounts in order to pretend to be someone they’re not. Others hijack people’s accounts to carry out scams and deceptions. Then there’s every parent’s nightmare scenario: criminals using the Internet to find and target a child.
These online perils shouldn’t overshadow the benefits of social networking. Just keep the risks in mind and take steps to avoid them.
Social Networking Safety Tips
Socializing online can involve unpleasant experiences and even some less than honest people. Here are some common pieces of advice for staying safe online and avoiding bad experiences.
Know who you’re talking to.
Many Internet authorities recommend only adding those you know to your group of friends or network. This is the safest advice, but many people use the Internet to meet and connect with new people – such as through online dating or online groups. Find your comfort zone, beware of the potential dangers, and act accordingly.
Be safe with your location.
Many social networking sites allow users to note where they are or where they’ve been. More often than not these are harmless details like going to a sports event or a restaurant. Misuse can occur though. Some predators use location details to track potential victims and some burglars use posts about vacations to target an empty home, apartment, or residence.
Avoid online confrontations.
Many parents, schools, and online advocates worry about cyberbullying. Adults can also suffer from cyberstalking and other forms of cyberharrassment. Knowing who you’re talking to can help, and so can avoiding problems altogether. Social networking messages and posts aren’t a good place to have heated discussions, as things can quickly get out of hand
Use privacy settings.
Social networking sites allow users to determine what is visible to the public, what is visible to friends and connections, and what isn’t visible at all. You should use these settings to protect your private information from strangers. Also note that sites frequently change their privacy settings. Keep yours up to date.
Protect Your Accounts
There are other potential risks to being online. Social networking safety must account for online threats from hackers, scammers, phishers, and other common online scams. Most major sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin take security seriously and offer tailored advice for their users. Here are some general tips for all social networking sites.
Choose strong passwords.
A strong password is the first line of defense. Most online security experts recommend long passwords using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Different passwords for different sites can prevent a small problem from becoming a larger one.
Watch out for online scams.
More people using social media means a more tempting target for scammers. Some simple steps to avoid scams can go a long way. Don’t click on suspicious links even if sent by people you know: this can be a sign of a hacked account.
Guard your personal details.
Thieves can use profile information to create fake identities and personal details to break into accounts. Many younger Internet users overshare personal information. This can provide potential account hackers with birthdays, school names, and hometowns – common answers to security screening questions.
There are countless resources online for social networking safety and safe computing. For questions or concerns about a specific site, the company maintaining it is a good place to begin. Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are major concerns for schools and universities. They often have experience dealing with them. For serious problems that might involve legal action, we recommend contacting an internet lawyer for advice and assistance.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified consumer attorney to assist with the hazards and stress accompanying identity theft and online scams.