For Better and For Worse

Posted on November 8, 2011 by

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So far, I’ve looked at the social and political uses of social media platforms and how they influence policy.  Today, I want to look at the more personal uses of social media and the dangers that can come with it.  How addicted are you to posting your latest news?  Criminals have started using social media to target people for their activities.

Share your news, but be safe.  Here are some things to consider before you click the share button.

  1. Try to avoid posting about going out-of-town.  If you absolutely must post about the fabulous 10 day cruise you got as a birthday gift, because who wouldn’t post about that, make sure you have someone who will stay in your home while you are gone.  Also, making it clear that your home will not be left unattended would be a good idea as well.
  2. Do not post about your small child’s activities or whereabouts if there is even a small possibility they will be unattended.  A patient predator can piece together your child’s schedule from your postings, and if he or she has knowledge about you and what you have said, it will be a simple task to convince the child to go with him/her.
  3. We call it “Facebook stalking” when people post a lot to each other’s walls, but stalking is not a joking matter.  If you feel you are being stalked, immediately contact your local authorities and report the activity to Facebook staff.  This also applies to all social media platforms.  When possible, print what is being posted so you have a record.
  4. Be aware of cyber bullying.  Most schools have a policy in place that prohibits the use of social media to bully students, but if you are in doubt, contact your school.  Make sure you are aware of their reporting procedure.  As above, print off as much documentation as possible to keep as a record of the harassment.  Some forms of bullying cross the line from harassment to criminal conduct.  Contact your local authorities for information on when bullying needs to be reported to the police.
  5. Use social media to protect yourself.  While over sharing information can lead to undesirable consequences, some sharing can help to keep you safe.  Posting where you are going, and with whom, can give authorities a place to start looking if you become missing.  With Facebook’s privacy settings, you can set this information to selectively show your post to a family member or close friend.

As with everything else in life, with the good comes the bad.  Social media are powerful tools, and tools are made to be used.  However, just as you need to know how to handle a chainsaw, you should know how to negotiate the sea of social media.

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