Staying safe on social media

Most people use social media to stay connected with friends and have fun. However, there are many that don't play by the same rules, and instead merely use it as a platform to offend people or cause them harm.

Don't let these users ruin your experience, but make sure that you are sensible by keeping your profiles secure. Avoid being a target by following these simple steps.

Simple steps

Set your profiles to private

Do you really want the whole world seeing everything that you post online? Set profiles to 'friends/followers' only.

But don't get complacent

Even with strong privacy settings in place, it is important that you come to terms with the fact that what you post online is never really private. It is therefore imperative that you always think before you post.

Recognise the fakes

Not everyone on social media will be who they say they are. We don't want to scare you, but there will be adults who want to cause young people harm. These people might hide behind profiles that claim to be much younger, be enrolled in school and/or have similar interests to people your age. Be very wary of anyone you don't know taking an unusual amount of interest in connecting with you. Never meet up with anybody who you haven't met in person, and make sure that you only accept friend requests from people you know

There is no positive reason why a complete stranger would need access to your personal account. If you are posting for a wider, public audience such as for a fan account or campaign, do this in a separate dedicated profile.

Spring clean your contacts

Once you make a friend online, it doesn't have to be permanent. Regularly review and clean up your contacts by removing anyone you no longer engage with. Most sites also allow you to separate your contacts into lists so that that you are able to control who sees what.

Block anyone who bothers you

All social media sites allow you to block people who you don't want accessing your account. It is not permanent and they won't be notified.

Protect your identity

Your phone number, address, bank details and any information that may hint to your personal passwords should never be shared online. Experienced password hackers or phishing sites can piece together your information to gain access to your account, or use your identity to create a new one. Make sure passwords are strong, change them regularly and always keep them private.

Avoid potential disasters

Be aware of what you send to people privately, as no matter how trustworthy they seem you can never be sure that they will not pass information on. If you would never want something to be seen in public, such as a sexual image or video, do not share it with anyone. If this ends up in the wrong hands, there can be severe consequences.

Inform your friends

Other people will never respect your privacy as much as you do. Make sure your friends know your preferences about uploading pictures, tagging your location or sharing information you expect to be confidential. This works both ways, so make sure that you respect other people's privacy in the same way.

Be wary of suspicious messages

Messages with a shortened URL alongside a statement such as 'OMG look at this picture of you…' or 'Have you seen what they are saying about you…' are not to be trusted. Never be fooled by the grabby statement, as it will only send you to a malicious site.

Phishing emails are also a problem. These are fake communications pretending to be a trusted organisation such as Facebook that will try and get you to log in. They can look very convincing, and even have your personal profile info, so only sign into a site through their official page or app. If something looks suspicious, check the email address and put it through a search engine. Malicious senders are usually named and shamed online!

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