By Clara Haneberg
Connecting with friends on Facebook and other social media sites is a popular and fun pastime, but do you know how to protect your privacy online? In March of this year, Facebook came under scrutiny for changing its privacy settings, which made many users question the site's safety. In response, Facebook stepped up its game. "Facebook has a lot of tools in place designed to allow you to keep some information private to the public, but available to your closest friends," says Adam Pash, editor-in-chief of the technology site LifeHacker.com. To help keep your online safety levels up to snuff, we asked Pash, along with social media strategist Jamie Ginsberg of SonicAllStar.com, for helpful suggestions. Read on to get their valuable tips for creating a secure social network.
1. Share with Caution
You can share pictures and information on your profile, but it's important to take precautions to prevent outsiders from viewing what you post. Facebook's general settings allow non-friends to view your information. As a general rule, Ginsberg advises allowing "Everybody" to find you in search and to message you, but only "Friends of Friends" should be able to see your pictures and videos. Your wall and other settings should also be set to "Friends Only." To do this, click "Account" on your profile's homepage, select "Privacy Settings" and tab through the sub-pages to update.6 Facebook Safety Tips
2. Know Your Friends
Be selective when accepting friend requests. If you don't recognize the name or picture, decline the friend request. "Why would you want to connect with this person you don't know?" Ginsberg asks. "If you can't come up with an answer quickly, then you shouldn't." It's also a good idea to weed out your network once a year. "You should only have 10 percent 'fat' in your network-the people you don't know, but want to get to know better," Ginsberg says. "Just like you would prune a tree to make it grow stronger, prune your network to keep it growing."
3. Consider Obscuring Your Identity
Altering your online identity has become a trend among college graduates and job seekers, especially for those users who post unprofessional content or haven't secured their network. To do this, simply use a different name or switch your last name to your middle name under "Account Settings." However, changing your name will reduce your connections, as people will not be able to find you under your legal name. On the other hand, Pash says, "If your profile contains information you're not comfortable with a prospective employer seeing, then by all means, obscure it." Obscured or not, Ginsberg encourages users to monitor their content. "I always advise people to run one profile really well. You should never have a profile that is not professional-period," he says.
4. Pare Down Your Personal Information
Sure, your birth date isn't your Social Security number, but "the more identifying information you add, the easier it's going to be for someone to use it to gain access to your identity" says Pash. Only list the date of your birthday-not the year-and an email address; skip any phone numbers or addresses. "If someone you know needs your address, they can email you to get it," Ginsberg says.
5. Filter Your Photos
Review every photo for appropriateness and good taste. Decide what you're trying to communicate through your online profile and immediately untag yourself in any photos that make you feel uncomfortable. If you have children, be cautious when posting pictures of them. Ginsberg stresses the importance of a secure network when posting family photos. The easiest way to keep things simple and safe is to narrow the circle of people who can see your photos and videos; select "Friends Only" for all media and delete any connections you're not close with.
6. Check in with Your Children
Social media usage is becoming more popular by the day-Facebook reached 500 million users this July-so it's important to talk to your kids about the importance of privacy. "Make sure they understand what information is safe for them to share," Pash says. Help your kids set up their profiles (or check their settings if they already have one). If you don't have a profile, set one up and "friend" your children. "Parents should definitely connect with their kids and engage in social media with them," Ginsberg says. By regularly signing into their network, parents can monitor their young ones' activity. Ginsberg also encourages parents to connect with their kids' friends. "If parents make the effort to connect with these kids online, they will be able to connect with them in the real world as well," he says.
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