Rachael Milsom

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Most of us have accounts for these websites. Social media has become integral to our world. And it’s hardly surprising. They are a fun, convenient way to stay in contact with friends and family, share our own photos and experiences and hear about the latest events. The perks of social media go on and on.

But these online channels of communication do not come without certain risks which we need to be aware of. We willingly expose ourselves on social media and therefore need to know how to protect ourselves effectively. Risks include disclosure of private information, cyber stalking, hackers and viruses. While this may sound scary social media can be perfectly safe if used with a bit of common sense and caution.

First of all, the most important step is to keep your profile set to private on social networking websites. This will prevent strangers from being able to access your information. Don’t make the foolish mistake of hastily clicking accept for every request you receive. Take the time to check who the request is from and whether you know them. It is frightening how many intimate details of your life people can discover from your social media profile. It is also wise to restrict the details you give about yourself, especially any identifying information such as a phone number or address.

Refrain from posting any information that potentially makes you vulnerable. If you’re throwing a house party is it really a sensible idea to splash the details all over Facebook for the whole world to see? Unless you want to risk your house being bombarded by strangers I’d suggest you find a more suitable way to send out your invite. Similarly, NEVER post that you are somewhere by yourself. By advertising that you are alone and vulnerable you become an easy target for crime. Another massive mistake is highlighting the fact that you are leaving your property unattended. You may not realise it but in doing so you give potential burglars a guaranteed perfect window.

Create a strong, unique password to prevent hackers from breaking into your account. It may be fun and games when your flatmates post a humiliating status or photo but it’s not so hilarious when a mysterious randomer has gained access to, and control over, your personal information. To avoid any fraudulent websites and phishing emails ensure that you have an effective antivirus turned on and be careful what you click on. If something seems suspicious block and report it. If you receive a suspicious request for private information, particularly bank details, do not do it. Ring your bank or the company claiming to need your details. The motto better safe than sorry definitely applies here.

Lastly, be aware of the image you are presenting. While this does not place you in any direct danger, it could affect your future more than you may realise. Employers are increasingly turning to social media to complete checks on potential employees. A survey found that 70% of job recruiters rejected candidates based on information they discovered online. Do you really want that embarrassing photo of you a bit worse for wear at FND to jeopardise securing the job of your dreams?

So embrace the perks of social media and use it your advantage. If prospective employers are going to stalk your page then take the opportunity to showcase your creativity and intelligence. And enjoy the ability to stay in contact with friends across the globe. Social media is a fantastic tool, as long as it is used correctly and safely!


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