Social networking sites like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are great places to hang out, chat with, and otherwise stay connected with your friends. But you should always be careful about what you’re sharing on these sites—you never know who might be able to see it.
Filling out your profile with information about you is one of the first steps you’ll do when you sign up for a social media site. But you need to be careful about what information you choose to add and who can see that information.
Many social sites will ask you for things like your phone number, email address, and even your home address. While these can help your friends find you, they can also help random people you don’t know find you.
If you include these things on your profile, make sure you have your privacy settings set to protect that information from search engines like Google and Bing so that random people searching for information can’t find your profile. You only want people you know and trust to have this information about you.
Sharing Pictures and Videos
Just like anything on your profile, your profile picture can be seen by anyone who comes across your profile, unless you have your privacy settings set in a certain way.
The most important thing to remember about when you share pictures or videos, even if they’re just to your friends, is that once they’re published online, you can’t ever really get rid of them. Sure, you can delete the post, but if someone saved the image before you deleted it, you no longer have control of how it can be used.
Trust us, you don’t want to get famous in that way. If you wouldn’t show the picture or video you’re uploading to your parents or grandparents, you don’t want it online.
Chatting Online and Friends Lists
It might make you feel awesome to have a huge friends list, but make sure you’re only adding people you actually know and trust to your lists. Many people aren’t truthful about who they say they are online, and if you give them access to your profile information, you could be putting yourself into a dangerous situation.
The same goes for chatting. Sites like Twitter and Instagram make it possible for you to talk to people no matter if you know them or not. In fact, you don’t even have to follow them or add them to be able to chat. While this can be a great way to meet new people, it can also be a great way to meet the wrong people.
Never give out personal information about yourself to someone you’re chatting with online. Even if you’ve been talking for a long time and think you know them really well, they could still be lying about who they really are. The people you meet online are technically strangers, and you don’t want strangers to know where you live or how to contact you offline.
When you sign up for a social site, your profile settings will automatically be set to public, meaning anyone will be able to see the information you put there. It’s always a good idea to change these settings so that you can stay in control of who has access to your personal information, pictures, posts, and videos.
Not sure how to change your privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Check our guide or use the Help Centers built in to every social media site.
Facebook has a feature that lets you “check in” to movie theaters, restaurants, shops, and pretty much any place you want. And while this can be a great way to show off how awesome your life is, it’s also a way for people to track you down when you don’t want them to.
Checking in shows where you are on a map, giving people an easy way to find you when you’re out. It also alerts people to when you’re not at home, making it possible for people to break in to your house when you’re not around. [Fun fact: This is how the “Bling Ring” broke into celebrities’ homes and stole millions of dollars of merchandise.]
Even if a social media site doesn’t have a check in feature, you can still alert people to where you are and what you’re doing with the messages you send. Make sure you’re not making statuses or sending Tweets about where you’re going.
Consequences of Social Media Use
As older teens headed toward the work force or college, you need to be aware of the consequences of your use of social media. Even if you profiles are set to private, make sure to keep an eye on what you are presenting to the public on your page. Future employers, college admissions, coaches, and even heads of social organizations will look at your social media. Many employers will look at your Facebook and Twitter before they finish reading your resume. Make sure that you are putting your best foot forward online. Don’t post inappropriate pictures of yourself or others (these can be pictures of a sexual nature, pictures of drug or alcohol use, etc) and don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your future boss to read. ThinkB4UClick!
Also, if your pages are public, you should also be aware that authorities like your local police department may monitor your page if they are tipped off that you may be engaging in illegal behavior. You never know who could be looking at your profile!