Connecting with others > Getting online > Social media safety

Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with family and friends, find out what is going on in the community, and keep up with current affairs. However, with stories of identity fraud, inappropriate activity and “trolling”, it’s understandable to feel apprehensive about using social media. This is a guide on how to stay safe when using social media so you can enjoy the many benefits.

Think twice about what you are posting

When posting on Facebook or Twitter it is a bit like standing in a town centre and making a public announcement. Whilst it may be more subtle that this, you are essentially sharing your thoughts, photos, and (potentially) location with anyone who is your Facebook friend. There are some scenarios where posts may be inappropriate:

  • You choose to post photos of your grandchild and their friends on her birthday, but one of the friends’ parents is upset that you have shared photos without her permission.
    • You post a photo of how you are enjoying spending time with a friend, but have told the charity you volunteer with that you are unwell and they see your post.
    • You share a controversial article and then many people get angry towards you in the comments.
    • You make a comment or joke which is mis-interpreted, or taken seriously when it wasn’t your intention to cause offence.

Whilst it is always your choice what you post, you may wish to take a moment to think whether it is appropriate or whether you want everyone to be able to see it.

Be wary of “trolls”

A “troll” is a slang word for a person who deliberately provokes others online, typically through posting angry or offensive comments. You may find these discussions in the comments section of news articles, or on popular Twitter feeds. It is best to ignore them as they are looking for an emotional response. For more information, take a look at this online guide on dealing with trolls.  

Check your privacy settings

By default your Facebook profile will be open to the public so you may wish to make it more private. If you click on Settings and then Privacy you will see different options available. You can then choose who can read your posts, whether you can review posts you are tagged in before they go public, and whether you can be found through a search engine such as Google. For more information click on the help pages on safety and privacy from Facebook and Twitter.

Create strong passwords for your accounts

When creating a Facebook profile you will be asked to fill in personal details, such as your phone number, home address, and email address. You should make sure that if you have to fill in these sections they remain private and use a strong password to protect them. Many people use pet names for their password, but these can be guessed easily, especially if you post regularly about them! For your password you should use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols and make them different for each account. For examples of passwords, try out the Strong Password Generator.

Guard your personal information

Avoid posting personal information about yourself or your personal details.  For example, if you post a status about enjoying a weekend away, be aware that if a potential criminal found out where you lived they could work out that you were not at home. Similarly, if you received a postcard from a friend and want to share a photo of it, block out your address. Avoid unnecessary security risks and guard your personal details from the public.

Sign out of your account

If you are logging into your Facebook or Twitter account on a computer that is not your own, you may be asked if you want the computer to ‘Save This Password’ for the next time you log in. You must answer ‘No’ as this will stop any automatic log-ins which could mean others can access your personal account. Also, make sure that you ‘Log out’ of your account when you leave your screen, rather than simply closing down the screen.