Category: Social Media Safety

TikTok and Online Security | Is TikTok Safe for Kids?

Is TikTok Safe for Kids?

You might have recently heard about some of the scandalous accusations that have been aimed at TikTok. Their accused lack of respect for peoples’ privacy and for online security has led to people wondering if they are spying and even seen calls for the app to be banned in the USA.

In this guide, we’re looking at some of the reasons why people are so suspicious of TikTok and going in depth on whether or not you should trust this social media giant.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media company that is similar in some respects to other visual platforms like Vine and Instagram. It focuses on short, snappy videos. There are effects you can add as well as songs and soundtracks, and these make a lot of the videos perfect for sharing. There are TikTok celebs in the same way that there are YouTube celebs as the younger generation especially become infatuated with the platform.

The TikTok Controversy: Is TikTok Safe?

People suspect that they are less than honest for a few different reasons. The Chinese company that owns TikTok has been accused of working with the Chinese government and the CCP in order to spy on Americans and other nationalities using the app.

Also, TikTok has had a chequered past where 42 million user profiles were exposed in a massive data leak, and because it is quite an open platform it can be abused by some scammers.

Why would TikTok want to steal peoples’ information?

It is hard to know the exact motives, but the accusations of links to spy groups suggest that they could wield some very powerful information. If the TikTok security was breached (something that a lot of people are concerned about) then this information, and the huge amount of data that the app requests to store when you use it, could be utilized for those with sinister intentions.

One of the things that has made people suspicious is the fact that TikTok records so much, including your location and even your device’s keystrokes.

Identity Theft Facts

Did you know that cybersecurity statistics show that nearly 1 in 3 DATA breach victims (30.5%) also suffered from identity fraud In 2013 – up from 22.5% in 2012. And this was years ago, Identity theft has been on the rise ever since, before TikTok was even on the scene. This type of theft is becoming more viable, and more easy to implement for certain criminals and this means that it is growing. Identity theft could well overtake physical forms of theft. People can use your details to borrow money or even to commit crimes, so it is important to be really cautious about what information you make available.

Identity theft can seem like something a bit abstract and like it is not relevant to you, but over 60% of those hit by scams say they have no idea how it happened to them. You can never be too careful as it can happen to anyone out there.

How to protect yourself and your children from Identity Theft

If you are at all worried then you should remember that you don’t have to get a TikTok account, and even if your children are desperate to have one, you might want to discourage this use of social media wherever possible. Though it doesn’t seem fun, it is worth actually reading the privacy policy and terms and conditions of the app. If you aren’t comfortable, steer clear.

If you do create an account, ensure that it is a private account, and see if your device will allow you to stop apps and third parties tracking your use of the device while you use the apps as this can be a way to prevent identity theft and stop loads of details about you and your life from being collected. 

How Safe is TikTok for Kids?

As with any social media platform, there are certain risks associated with the app that parents should be aware of. One risk includes the potential for exposure to inappropriate content. While it’s true that the app’s official guidelines prohibit illegal or inappropriate content to be shared, it’s worth noting that there aren’t real people managing this process. Instead, TikTok relies on digital algorithms to automatically filter out content that violates the app’s official guidelines. The reality of this is that some illicit content will inevitably fly under the radar and end up on users’ screens.  

Another area of concern is the potential for communication with strangers. With over one billion users on the app, the risk of contact with strangers shouldn’t be ignored. Kids aged 16+ that create an account will have their profile set to public by default, and their account activity is visible to anyone. While accounts made by children between the ages of 13 and 15 are automatically set to private, it’s not hard to bypass this restriction—all they have to do is enter a false birth date when they register for an account. 

While there are many parental controls parents can activate to mitigate many of these risks and create a safer experience for their children who use the app, it’s still important to be educated on the potential dangers that come with any social media platform. Knowing what privacy settings you can manage and taking time to set technology boundaries with your kids are some of the best ways you can ensure your kids are protected on TikTok. 

What Will Happen To TikTok?

Nobody has specific proof that TikTok is being used to spy on people or to steal identities. In the world of politics there is plenty of debate about the app and its use as people realize just how much power the owners of the app, ByteDance, who first acquired musically then transformed it into TikTok, could have if they really are tapping into that personal data.

If the claims are valid then it is probably a good idea to come off the app, but also to protect yourself in other ways. You can use identity monitoring services to try and establish whether data about you has leaked or become available on the black market. If some of the claims that have been made about TikTok and the Chinese government links then there is every chance that there will be some really drastic measures taken very soon.

The Future of Tiktok

TikTok seems to be tightening up some of its security.  The recent bad PR has led to the app trying to build confidence from consumers that they are not trying to steal data from people or collude with parties who are less than trustworthy.  It still remains to be seen how safe TikTok can be for kids.

The app could be removed from app stores if it is not up to scratch in terms of its privacy policies, so there are real threats to whether it will continue to exist within the western hemisphere. The threat of this will surely lead to the app becoming more watertight and giving users a lot more security controls. If not, the days of cute cat videos on TikTok could be numbered.

Social Media Safety Tips are Not Only for Kids

Kids sometimes feel insulted or frustrated when always warned by adults about the dangers of social media. They shouldn’t be. Just because someone has more life experience and education doesn’t mean they won’t make stupid mistakes on social media.

The Internet is full of frightening and sometimes laughable stories about adults who should know better getting in serious trouble over social media activity.

Young adults with high enough marks to apply for college will probably find that their social media history could prevent them from higher education. Admissions officers at universities and colleges commonly read a candidate’s Facebook page before deciding to accept his or her application.

Some goes as far as to search for candidate’s who have been tagged by friends to see pictures of that candidate’s behavior.

Rude and mean behavior isn’t all that recruiters look for; some potential students have lost athletic scholarships valuing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because they posted pictures of injuries which scared off sports recruiters.

The scrutiny continues when adults apply for work. An on-line site published by Time Magazine reported that 93% of businesses check out an applicant’s tweets and posts before offering the person a job. Any behavior that reflects poorly on a company will tend to have a resume tossed to the side.

Even adult with good, solid jobs have to be careful on-line. People have lost their jobs because bosses saw posts critical to the business. Workers have been fired or reprimanded when bosses spotted posts that were made during work hours or found tweets where employees complained about their jobs in off-work hours.

Privacy settings don’t keep adults safe, either. Friends can like a post or re-tweet a few words that can easily be found by others.

You don’t even have to post words or pictures for social media to get into trouble.

In 2015, an Australian woman had a real-life dispute with a co-worker in her office. She later went home and unfriended the co-worker. A job-place tribunal found the woman guilty of cyberbullying—all because she hit the unfriend button.

Adults are absolutely correct when they lecture kids about being smart with social media. With more experience in dealing with life and the world, adults have a better grasp of dangers that lurk on-line. Yet all that experience and knowledge can’t prevent adults from getting into trouble with posts and tweets.

Regardless of age or education, anyone can get into trouble or be personally damaged by a simple slip on social media.

Is Your Social Media Profile the Real You?

Social Media SafetyThink back to when you made your social media profile. You typed in your age, some basic information about yourself, the music you liked and the movies you enjoyed. This became part of the You that the world could see on line anytime. And, chances are, that ‘You’ isn’t totally real.

Recent studies have found that most Facebook users misrepresent at least some part of their profile. One common bit of information likely to be untrue is the user’s age. Young users tend to make themselves out to be older than they really are.

Facebook has a policy that users under the age of 13 cannot be members. An estimated 80% of kids under the age of 13 have a Facebook account,* which means that all those kids have false information in their profile.

In many instances, these profiles are done with parents’ permission and monitoring, allowing children to keep in touch with distant relatives and close, trusted friends. As these children get older, few change their ages back, preferring instead to be considered “older” and “more mature.” That means that you could be chatting with someone you think is, say, 18, when that boy or girl could be only fifteen, if not younger.

Some people give themselves a younger age. This can be vanity–or a way to make a younger person feel more comfortable talking to them online. By appearing younger in a Facebook profile, little children are more likely to share plans and activities, helping make them an easy target for predators, who more than likely may have a totally fake social media profile.

Another way people are likely to misrepresent themselves on social media is by downplaying negative parts of their lives and exaggerating the good stuff. This is easy to understand. Many people are embarrassed to tell others when life doesn’t go their way. All of us want others to think the best of us and look at us in a good light. Posts may never present us in the real moment when we are not dressed in the latest fashion.

Suppose that you raved on Facebook about how well a team try-out or a date went, when in reality you feel disappointed. Your friends might congratulate you, which could make you feel even worse when you don’t make the team.

In reality, your life is your business. Being completely honest about every little feeling you have can be wearing on both you and your friends. Imagine posting every thought, every move, every activity and every little thing you do, from washing your face to putting on your shoes. You decide what is important enough to post.

Many people make a habit out of keeping their social media simple and basic. They post birthday messages and social activities that are already common knowledge. Personal information is shared only with personal, real friends. After all, what you do in your real life is the real you.

* READ our recent article on NIMBLE NUMBERS. After reading that, you might find yourself asking about how truthful the 80% number is. The question you should be asking is, “Where did that number come from?” In this case, the 80% figure came from a Consumer Report survey published on pcworld.com, both sources known for being fair and accurate.

Social Media Safety Considerations for Parents

sharanting-kids-permisson-post-pics

There are many blogs, posts and studies about the impact of social media on teenagers and young children. It’s been proven time and time again that social media use among children can be harmful to their emotional and mental health.

However, these posts often ignore another social media phenomenon that can be harmful: sharenting, or the practice of parents sharing their children’s information, photos and videos online.

Sharenting specifically refers to parents of school-aged children, who share photos or videos of their children on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Though it can be tempting to share fun photos of your kids, there are many safety considerations to think about before hitting send.

Risks of Sharenting

Many kids have a social media presence before they are old enough to be aware of social media at all. Before deciding to post their child on social media, parents should consider the potential risks that come with doing so.

1.     Safety

The Internet is a big — and sometimes dangerous — place. Even when parents have privacy settings or safety measures in place, there isn’t always a guarantee that photos and data are truly private. Posting a child’s photo can pose a potential risk to their privacy and safety, and create a cyber footprint for the child before they are old enough to have an online presence.

2.     Bullying

School can be a hard place for kids, who may at some point experience bullying. Posting photos or videos of children online, especially ones that are potentially embarrassing, can feed these bullies in school or in the community. Posting a child’s image online opens them up to judgement from strangers and friends alike.

3.     Embarrassment

Everyone knows the embarrassment of being tagged in a photo they don’t like — the same philosophy applies to posting photos or videos of children. Though you might think your child looks cute with food all over their face or doing a silly dance, they might be embarrassed to see that content online. It’s a best practice to ask your child whether they consent to having the image posted before uploading it.

In a recent survey conducted by Bestow, however, the majority of Americans didn’t think it was necessary to ask children for permission before posting their photo. In reality, asking permission before posting is a good practice to ensure the child feels supported and avoids feelings of embarrassment or shame.

4.     Permanence

The old adage that nothing posted on the Internet is ever fully deleted rings true. Though bath time photos or silly pictures of food-splattered faces may be cute in the moment, it’s worth considering that these images could potentially follow your child throughout their life.

Best Practices for Parents Online

Of course, parents will sometimes want to post pictures of their children to brag or celebrate. There are certain ways to do so safely.

5.     Avoid Posting Location or Other Private Details

If you’re posting a photo of your child — especially on public platforms — it’s best to avoid including private details that could possibly lead strangers or predators to your location. Don’t include geotags or identifying buildings, street signs or landmarks that could identify where you live.

6.     Ask Your Child What They Think

If you’re unsure whether your child will approve of a photo or video you want to post of them, just ask! Avoid potentially embarrassing or upsetting your child by getting their permission to post them on your social media. This will make your child feel more supported and independent while also helping them curate their own online footprint.

7.     Consider the Future

Before hitting send, remember that you’re posting something that could potentially follow your child throughout their lives. Avoid posting nude, inappropriate or embarrassing content that your child may be embarrassed about when they grow up.

How to Keep Your Personal Data Private on Social Media

Keeping Data Private on Social Media

These days, if you want to find out about someone, all you need to do is go on to Facebook and search for his or her name. With a bit of extra information, you’ll be able to know that person’s address, birthday, relatives, educational background, work experiences, previous travels, and even what he or she ate this morning.

You don’t need a private investigator these days—all you need is social media. It’s one of the reasons why Internet privacy is a hot potato right now. After Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and the implementation of EU’s GDPR initiative, concerns about internet privacy have skyrocketed. The fact that people spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes every day on social media has only highlighted the need for keeping the user’s data private on social media.

What type of information is shared on social media?

Your profile

Most social media platforms allow their users to create online profiles that are very detailed and complete.  Although these details are not required, a lot of users feel the need to complete their profile to make it easier for their friends and acquaintances to easily identify their account. Some of the profile information gathered includes gender, age, family information, interests, address, phone number, educational background, and employment.

Your status updates.

Social networks usually allow users to their status updates to be able to communicate with friends quickly. Although you can choose to restrict access to your status updates, however, it is still visible to Google and other search engines.

Your location. 

Social media networks are designed to broadcast your actual location, either as part of your profile or as an update available to authorized contacts only. When you check in to a local business or attend a local event, you are sharing your current location with other people.

Your shared content.

Social media is all about sharing content about you, about what you do, and about the people around you. Photos, music, videos, and links are some of the common types of content shared on social media.

All the information that you share on social media reveals information about you, including contextual data that you might not even be aware of. By sharing them online, you are providing enough information for advertisers to track you or the government to monitor your activities.

How Is Your Information Used?

The data that you share on social media, whether publicly or through authorized contacts only, can be used by different entities for their own purposes. For example, an advertiser could aggregate your publicly available information, along with your browsing history, to perform targeted advertising. If you’ve seen a lot of sponsored ads on your Newsfeed related to the items you searched or purchased on Marketplace, then that’s part of their behavioral advertising campaigns.

Third-party applications, such as games, quizzes, polls, and other apps like Omegle and Tik Tok, that you grant access to your profile might be getting more information than you realize. This is actually how the British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, got access to millions of Facebook profiles and influenced public opinion.

Government agencies and law enforcement officers can also monitor your social media networks for valuable information regarding an investigation. Social media has become a vital part of law enforcement investigation because of the abundance of information that can be gleaned from the user’s account. Authorities can also work with the social media platform to get detailed information that is not available to the public.

And for those applying for employment, most recruiters now include looking into the applicant’s social media profiles when doing a background check.

How to Protect Your Privacy on Social Media

How do you keep your data safe on social media? The bad news is that there is always a risk that your information might fall into the wrong hands as long as you use social media. It’s because when you use social media, you’re automatically sharing something to the public.

And let’s admit it: it’s hard to imagine living without social media, especially for people with family members away from home. The good news is that there are some ways to help protect your privacy and mitigate the risk while using social media.

Delete accounts that you don’t need.

The #DeleteFacebook movement is a good example of people going to great lengths to protect their data. This might be a good idea if you are living with your family and don’t need to use it to communicate with other people. Or if you have several Facebook accounts you previously created for some reason. If you find yourself not using a social media account, it would be better to shut down your account and delete the application from your devices to cut off any chances of inadvertent data sharing. You might not be aware of it, but social media apps can theoretically access information and data on your device.

Limit the number of social media networks that you use and don’t create new accounts just to gain more coins for your games or to stalk someone on social media.

Limit your friends.

You’re not obliged to accept everyone who sends you a friend request. You might argue that social media was meant for making friends and connecting with people, but it is not advisable to connect with total strangers. Keep in mind that your list of friends will have access to information that you don’t normally want the public to know, so make sure you know your friends. Don’t hesitate to reject connection or friend requests from users you don’t know or have dodgy profiles. Review your friends list regularly and unfriend those who you don’t know.

Change your privacy settings.

Most social media networks provide users with the option to change their privacy settings and manage the way their information is seen. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have made it easier to decide who can see your posts and who can follow you. You can look around your social media account and look for the Privacy settings.

Facebook, for example, allows you to control who sees your profile and timeline, who can see your email and other contact information, who can tag you on posts, who can send you messages and friend requests, and other information. Other social media platforms also have this option, all you need to do is dig around the platform’s settings. And make sure to check your privacy settings regularly too, because sometimes they get changed suddenly and mysteriously.

Be careful what you post online.

You don’t want people to use your own posts against you or ruin your reputation. If you don’t want something to be associated with you, then post it. Reckless posting can come back to haunt you when you least expect it. Never post anything that you don’t want other people to see. So before you publish your posts, double-check and triple-check.

Keep in mind that everything you publish online could easily be seen by your employers, family members, friends, professional contacts, and anyone else who can see your profile. And though you can always delete the unwanted posts later, you don’t know who has taken a screenshot of your unwanted post. The same goes for your conversations.

Don’t share everything about yourself.

Social media users like to use their real names, addresses, and other personal information to make it easier for friends to recognize them. Professionals, too, like to add their employment details on LinkedIn to build a good reputation and easily connect with other professionals in the industry. However, giving out these details make it very easy for cybercriminals to guess your other important information, such as your work email, to launch targeted phishing or online scams that seem credible. To be safe, don’t share all your information online so hackers will have lesser data to work with.

Don’t share family photos on your social media.

We know you love your kids, but you don’t need to post everything they do on social media. Cyber predators can grab photos of your children and stalk them on the internet. And since you put your address and your complete name on your profile, it is easier for these online predators to locate your house and probably put your kids in danger. Posting pictures of your children online makes them possible targets by sexual and other cyber predators.

Don’t use your social media profile to log into other websites.

These days, it is easier to create new accounts by simply using your social media profiles to log in. For example, you can use your Facebook or Twitter profile to log into other services. Instead of typing in your information, such as email address, password, name, and address, all you need to do is click the ‘Login with Facebook’ or ‘Sign up with Facebook’ option, then everything will be filled out for you.

However, sharing your data across different platforms is very dangerous because you’re pooling all of your data in one location. Once any of these platforms is breached, then all of the accounts associated with your Facebook profile will also be compromised.

So don’t be lazy when creating profiles. Take a few minutes to set up your account using the signup form instead of relying on the ‘Sign up with Facebook’ function.

Wrapping Up

With social media becoming a very important tool for communication, it is becoming harder to stay private and keep your personal information safe. Hopefully, the tips above can help you protect your privacy online while enjoying the benefits of social media. It might be a good idea to receive additional training in online safety to be aware of all possible threats and how to be protected against them

Safer Search

What does it take to provide a safer web experience for kids? It takes a combination of tools and resources working together in unison: internet filtering, secure browsing, apps for parental controls, and education. That is our mission at Safe Search Kids as we work to deliver these four cornerstones of online safety to parents, teachers, and students.

Search public records to find people, connect with long lost friends, family, or conduct background checks to learn about strangers or acquaintances that have contact with your children on the people search engine.