Social Media – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Part 6
We hear it often. Social media is dangerous, and you have to be careful. The truth is that yes, you have to be careful with social media, just as you would with any other means of giving out your information, but it is not as dangerous as media reports or Hollywood movies have made it out to be. A few simple rules, particularly for children, will allow social media and its benefits to be included in your day-to-day activities.
There is a growing number of social media sites and services, and so it is difficult to discuss specific settings in every case, but each social media site has some version of privacy settings. It is important that you look for these settings in whatever social media site you are using and adjust them to suit your needs. Users will have some options to consider under their settings, and here is a good general rule of thumb. Unless your phone number is unlisted, remember that any phone book will have the street address and phone number for your family, listed under one person's name. Good or bad, who that person is in your family, that person's contact information is already public and easily accessible. The other family members in your home, however, are a different story.
For other members, it might be best to adopt a "no numbers" policy. That means that no phone numbers, street address numbers, or certainly ID numbers (credit cards, Social Security, etc.) get posted without a parent's permission. That's always a good starting point, and for many adults, that policy holds true for them, too. Then, remember that if you "connect" to that person and indicate a familial relationship, then a viewer of your contact information will be able to access the public record for your family, so be attentive to sites that ask for familial relationships. Enter into them with awareness of the possible information that can be shared.
Once you have adopted a "no numbers" policy for the majority of your family, then you need to consider the listing of your city or state. Some social media sites will not allow you to omit this information. Depending on your preferences, that alone may eliminate some of those sites from your participation. But many sites will allow you to only include the state. I have found that the average person tends to "reveal" this kind of information online anyway, whether intentional or not, so if you are not comfortable with releasing your state, then you should not participate in social media sites. If however, you have no problem with your state being listed, often you can leave it at that and make full use of the medium.
A final safety rule for social media sites, and this goes beyond the settings feature, is to remember that every posting, every comment, and every opinion you or your child shares is historical. That means that at any point, something that you have said may be re-posted or shared by another, so for your own safety and well-being, you should never put anything on a social media site that you would not feel comfortable saying to A room full of friends and strangers. This rule is true in life as the old adage goes, "If you can not say something nice, then say nothing at all." Safe, as in emotionally and physically safe social media, follows this adage. Even if you are sharing with someone privately, there are things that should and should not be shared via this medium. Keeping that in mind at all times will save you pain and discomfort. I assure you.
This is the final article in this 6-part series. In using social media, remember that there are "best practices" and then there is everyone else. If you are following the guidelines as outlined in this series, you will find that your usage of social media can be enjoyable, productive, fun, safe, and informative. That is the goal and purpose of this method of communication, and I encourage you to ensure that all of your interactions follow these guidelines.