Safer Online – Part 12

How to Protect Yourself on Popular Social Networks

Below, we have compiled a short guide to keeping yourself safe on some of the most popular social media networks. We delve into their risks, and how to change your account settings to avoid explicit content, scammers, fake profiles, and cyberbullies.

We are starting with Facebook

What are some of the main risks on Facebook?

  • it is easy for scammers to befriend and trick you by using fake profiles.
  • There is a medium to high risk of being exposed to links that will take you to scam websites that phish for your personal information.
  • Cyberbullies often use Facebook to harass their victims.
  • Although it is against Facebook’s policies, you may be exposed to explicit posts that their content filters haven‘t detected.
  • Features like video autoplay can trigger sensory overload.
  • Social media, as a whole, can be addictive.

Ways to protect yourself on Facebook

  • Leave out personal information: 

Although Facebook asks for your first and last name, avoid giving it if you can. Instead, many people use a pseudonym or create a fake last name. This will make it difficult for people to track you down on other platforms or in real life.

Avoid customizing your ‘about me’ section too much. You should never tell Facebook where you live, work or study.

If you‘re using a device with GPS, don‘t allow Facebook to post your location. The easiest way to do this is to block Facebook from accessing your device’s location information. You can usually find this setting on your device under Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

  • Make your account private:

Make sure that your profile is private so that only your friends can see your statuses and send you messages. This reduces your risk of encountering cyberbullying by putting you in charge of who can contact you. Keep in mind that strangers will still be able to read any comments you make on your friends’ posts and on public pages.

  • How to set your posts to friends only:

Once you‘ve opened the status dialog box, click the privacy setting drop-down menu in the lower bar. It will say either ‘friends’ or ‘public.’ If it says ‘friends,’ that means only the friends you have accepted will see this post. If it’s set to ‘public’ click on it and select ‘friends’ before you hit the post button.

  • How to set your profile to private:

Login to Facebook and select the arrow at the top of your page in the home bar. From here, select ‘settings’.

When your settings page loads, select ‘privacy’ in the sidebar. This will load two categories of privacy settings for you to alter.

There are two privacy options under ‘your activity’. For the best privacy possible, set them as follows:

  • Who can see your future posts?

This should be set to ‘friends only,’ so that strangers can‘t see your private status updates.

  • Limit the audience for posts you‘ve shared with friends of friends or public?

If you opt to change this to ‘friends only’, it will increase the privacy of all your past posts so that strangers can no longer view them.

Next, decide how people can find and contact you.

  • Who can send you friend requests?

If you‘re not interested in receiving friend requests from strangers, set this option to friends of friends. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely eliminate people sending you requests, but this will reduce the occurrence by quite a bit.

  • Who can see your friends list?

For optimal security, set this one to ‘friends’ or ‘only me’.

  • Who can look you up using the email address/phone number you provided?

If you‘re worried about strangers or bullies tracking you down using your email address or phone number, set this one to ‘friends’ only. Your friends can already contact you through your account, so they‘d have no reason to look you up by any other means.

  • Do you want search engines outside Facebook to link to your profile?

If you select yes for this option, it makes it possible for people to find your Facebook page by searching for your name on Google or any other search engine. For optimal security, select no.

Now, head on over to your ‘timeline and tagging’ settings to finalize the process.

  • Who can post on your timeline?

To prevent strangers (and bullies) from posting on your timeline, you can set this to ‘only me’. However, this will also prevent your friends from posting on your timeline.

  • Who can see what others post on my timeline?

Again, set this one to ‘friends’ or ‘only me’ so that strangers can’t see the posts other people leave on your timeline.

Avoid cyberbullies:

If someone is using Facebook to harass you, you can block them from seeing your profile or contacting you. All you need to do is navigate to their profile and select the drop-down menu that‘s represented by three little dots at the top of their page. Then, select ‘block’. They won‘t be able to find or view your profile, and they won‘t be notified that you have blocked them.

Avoid inappropriate content:

For the most part, Facebook’s censorship software filters inappropriate and harmful content out of your feed. However, you can also set Facebook up to filter comments containing specific words out of your timeline.

Head back to your ‘timeline and tagging’ settings, and under the timeline category, select the ‘hide comments that contain certain words’ option. From here, you can create a list of words, phrases, and even emojis that you don‘t want to see on your timeline, and Facebook will block them for you.

Take a break:

You can log out of Facebook at any time, but for a more prolonged leave of absence, you can temporarily deactivate your account. All of your friends, posts, and photos will remain on your profile while you‘re away, but nobody else will be able to see your account or send you messages until the next time you login. This is a great solution if you need to take a step away from social media, but don’t want to lose all of your content and memories.

To deactivate your account, go to settings > general > manage account > deactivate your account.

Check in again next week for the next instalment: How to Protect Yourself on Popular Social Networks – Twitter