Social media, also known as social networking sites, refers to a website or an application, which was introduced with an aim to build relationships and create social networks. It allows its users to not only build a personal profile for communicating with friends but also share personal information such as photos, music and videos.
Today, social media has become an integral part of our lives, with billions of active users logging in everyday; some of the most popular ones being Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Tumblr.
While it is a great way to stay connected with families and friends all over the world, it has also become a way to initiate communication with complete strangers. Therefore, although it is a positive experience for many, yet the amount of personal information being posted online have put many users at risk, leaving an unfortunate amount of users, with many being women as well as kids, to become victims of various forms of cyber crimes. Thus, it has become necessary to be aware of the negative aspects of social media and take safety measures against such dangers.
- Follow the minimum age policy:
All social media sites have set their own minimum age policy, with most sites requiring you to be at least 13 years of age. However, there’s always the possibility of entering false information, which can be done with ease. Parents should communicate with their kids about the risks of using social media and and make them understand that these requirements are there to protect them. Even when an underage child uses social media, it should always be under strict parental supervision.
- Know your Privacy settings:
Most platforms are designed in such a way that if you do not customise the settings, the default setting will allow anyone and everyone to view your posts. The privacy and security settings are, therefore, made to control and manage who sees your posts. The safest setting would be to allow only your friends to see your posts.
- Never share too much of your personal information:
Because social media was created for everyone, it has also become a nesting place for stalkers and even pedophiles, who are constantly looking for vulnerable users. The more information you share, the more easy it becomes for predators to access and misuse your data. Therefore, do not reveal more than you need to, such as your location, your lifestyle, address or contact information and always take a moment to think before you post.
- Filter your friend requests before accepting:
Not everyone who sends you a friend request or a follow request does so with good intention. There are also thousands of fake profiles that are created mainly for the purpose of bullying and harassment. Fake profiles are also used by stalkers and pedophiles who are on the lookout for innocent preys. Therefore, when accepting a friend request from a complete stranger, be very cautious and to be on the safer side, only accept requests from people you know.
- Never share your passwords with anyone:
Many users, specially kids, make the common mistake of sharing passwords with their friends and even adults tend to share it with their lovers. As there is always the possibility of a friendship or relationship going sour, never give out your passwords.
- Never meet your online “friends”:
What you see online is not always real; not everyone on social media is who they say they are. People with malicious intent often pretend to be someone else. Therefore, never agree to meet with people that you don’t know in person.
- Know what to do when an incident takes place:
when there is any kinds of online abuse or threats being faced, instead of responding, immediately report and block the person. In case of bullying faced by children, consult your parents or an adult that you trust. Taking screenshots of the such incidents may also prove to be helpful as evidence later in the event of a legal action. In case of any such online incidents, you can also always report it to the cybercrime reporting portal, that is, www.cybercrime.gov.in, where reports can also be filed anonymously.