This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social and is part of the Be Safe. Be Social series.

Facebook is still the predominant social network of choice especially among teenagers and young adults. As we know from the “think before you post” article, when you put something online it stays online. Even if you delete it there is no solid guarantee it is completely gone.

Facebook has its own Safety Centre which gives advice for teenagers, keeping in mind of course that under the official terms and conditions of Facebook’s policy you have to be over 13 years old to actually join the site. Some of the main tips when using social media are;

  1. Don’t share your password with anyone
  2. Only accept friend requests from people you know
  3. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers or employer to see
  4. Learn about privacy settings and review them often

Facebook themselves advise you to review privacy settings often. Did you know that Facebook is fully entitled to alter and change privacy settings as they see fit? Ever see that notification pop up on your feed saying that the privacy policy is changing from a certain date and inviting you to find out what exactly is changing? The one that most of us dismiss?

On Facebook you should explore each privacy option for yourself and set them as appropriate, decide what you want to enable or disable on the service. Decide if you want to allow tagging, if you want your profile public or private and what information you want people to see.

Whatever settings you decide to use, the most important thing is to think before you post. Think about what you are posting on people’s profiles, if their profile is not private then your comments will be open to a global audience.

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts when using Facebook which you can also apply to all forms of social media you use.

Do:

Do think about how you present yourself and how you come across on social media. Your online reputation is important, especially if people engage with you first online before meeting you face to face. Think before choosing a profile image, is this the image that you want to represent you and who you are? Because that is what it is going to do. Think about your language and use of profanities, even if used in jest, what you say and how you appear will become your digital footprint.

Do trust your instinct, if it looks too good to be true then it probably is. If it does not look right or feel right then something is more than likely not right. If you come across something online that you do not like or feel uncomfortable with report it, alternatively, turn off the computer and tell and adult. The internet is a wonderful vast space and with that comes the problem of content which is not suitable for all ages yet impossible to completely limit.

Do be careful with your information. The problem with posting personal information online is that as soon as it goes online you have lost control of it. Pictures can be saved, copied and shared with a few clicks. Photos can be altered to fit an individuals agenda, don’t post photos you wouldn’t want everyone to see.

Do respect other people right to privacy, ask before tagging them. Don’t share their personal details online, it is not your place to do so. They have a right to privacy as much as you value your own right to privacy.

Don’t:

Don’t assume people online are who they say they are. Always be cautious about meeting people in public if you have met them online only. Just because people claim that they go to certain schools, that they are a certain age and supply you a photo – it does not make any of it necessarily true. The information they provide you is not checked by a third party, there is no way of doing this so it is up to you to check for yourself. Be cautious and if you decide to meet up with an online friend make sure you do so in a busy public place with lots of people.

Don’t post information which could assist people to find your location without meaning to. It is possible to give away vital information about your location without intending to do so. Photos with landmarks or even a car registration can give away details of where you are living, something you may not want everyone online to know. People can piece together snippets of information you unknowingly provide over time and then use that information against you in a malicious intent in the future.

Don’t reply to messages harassing or bullying you. We call this, ‘don’t feed the trolls’ and basically means that abusive bullies online (trolls) are looking to get you going. If you respond you are giving them what they are looking for, the best thing you can do is understand that you will never reason with these individuals. The system I use online is report, block and move on.

Taking Control:

The only person who can take control of your social media experience is you. If you encounter problems online which is of a particular vile nature then take the following steps and I can guarantee that they will be taken care of.

  1. Tell someone you trust, a friend or parent, about what is going on
  2. Block the troll or bully send you the abuse
  3. Save the offensive posts, they are not pretty to look at however that is your evidence. Should they do something illegal the Gardai will need evidence to use agains them
  4. Report the individual using the sites report button, all social media services have this tool. Use it as appropriate

About The Author

Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis. He has an Advanced Diploma in Psychology and a Diploma in Digital Marketing And Social Media. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here. Or you can drop Mark an email at, [email protected]

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