Category: Social Media Safety

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

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Check the Facts Before You Post on Social Media

Check the facts before you post on social media

Before you post information about others on social media, think twice.  Is the post true?  Even if it is true, will it hurt someone else?  Is it any of your business to spread news about someone you’ve heard?  Social media is a great was to communicate and keep in touch with friends.  But it has a dark side.

Whether people are judged wrongly in a situation or are simple spreading rumors, it’s always important to check the facts before we judge.

Here are a few examples of how information on social media can get out of hand.

Mean Liam

Imagine you are in the back seat, playing with your phone as your dad drives you to soccer practice. You pass Liam, a kid from school. His arms are waving and his face is red as he yells at a small boy you don’t know. And your dad has driven past the scene, his attention on the road.

You shake your head, then go online and post: “What’s up with Liam? Just saw him screaming at some little kid. He’s such a loser.” “We’re here,” your dad says. “Give me your phone.”

You do and head to the locker room.

After practice, as you’re changing, you tell your teammates about Liam. “You should have seen him. And the kid was half his size.” One of the kids you tell whips out his phone and posts: “Liam. Always thought you were a jerk. Now I know.”

Only when you’re buckled in the back seat does your dad hand you your phone. Turning it on, you see that lots of your friends have commented on how much of a jerk Liam is. You feel a burst of pride. After all, you were the one who told the world about Liam’s horrible behavior.

You start responding as your dad detours to the school to get your big sister from her basketball practice.

When your sister gets in the car, she’s excited. “Did you hear about the Jameson boy? He took off from his mom and was over by the freeway throwing rocks at cars.”

Your dad shoots her a strange look. “How do you know this?”

“Well, Liam was riding by on his bike and the kid threw a rock at him. So he pulled into the ditch and told him to stop. He tried to get the kid’s home number and the boy wouldn’t tell him. Our coach had to stop drills when Liam called her to get the Mom’s number.”

You feel the slow burn of embarrassment start creeping up your neck.

“Mrs. Jameson was frantic,” your sister continues. “She’d even called the police because she couldn’t find him. The cops showed up anyway because they’d had reports about a kid throwing rocks at cars—sirens and everything. It was a wild scene.”

“Wow. Scary. A little boy that close to the freeway. And throwing rocks, no less. Good thing Liam has a head on his shoulders. That Jameson boy could have hurt someone or got hurt himself.”

And there you are, looking at all the mean postings about Liam.

You take a breath and write your next post: “Hey, everybody. Turns out that the real jerk around here is me. I’ve just learned the hard way not to make fast judgments about people. Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”

Learn these Tips to Keep Teens Safe on Twitter.

A Story of Before and After

My odd friends are once again teaching me how what we think can sometimes fool us. Let me tell you about Rahim and Sandy. Rahim is a quiet, gentle guy and all the girls I know have a secret crush on him. The one with the biggest crush is Sandy. What put him in solid with her was when she saw him one afternoon at the mall.

A girl who was dressed kind of oddly was being bullied by a group of rude boys. Sandy, watching in the food court, saw Rahim stride up to the group and order the boys away from the girl who by this time was crying.

Rahim stood between the weeping girl and bullies until mall security came and escorted the boys away. Sandy watched as the guards thanked Rahim and the girl’s mother ran up to hug her girl.

Sandy texted me from the food court: “Rahim is awesome. He’s so strong and kind. I like him so much.”

I smiled and set my phone aside.

A busy week of school and sports and gossiping passed. Sandy spent every spare moment she could with Rahim. They took breaks together, went for slushies together and biked away from school together every day.

Sandy texted me: “I know we are just friends, but Rahim is the guy I see with me for a long time.”

This was before.

The very next day after that text, Sandy saw a picture on social media of the bullied girl from the mall kissing Rahim on the cheek. In another picture, Rahim and mall-girl were sitting close to each other eating burgers and looking happy.

At this point, Sandy texted me: “How could I be so stupid. Rahim took advantage of a bullied girl and now is hanging with her.

He was only nice to her because she was so pretty. And all this week while he was hanging with me, he was also hanging out with this girl.

He must be one of those guys who needs lots of girlfriends to feel good about himself. I saw that in a movie last week.”

I rolled my eyes and turned off my phone.

Sandy does this all the time. Before the mall incident, Rahim is sweet and sensitive. After the mall, he’s the villain on a television show. Sandy is my friend and I’m going to have to talk with her about making assumptions. I need to tell her that mall-girl is Rahim’s cousin.

Learn about kids safety on Discord with this parental guide.

How a Town Made A Monster—True Story

Once upon a time, a mom and dad drove their little girl to school. Mom got out to walk the girl to the school door.  Before they got there, Dad remembered something he had forgotten to ask the little girl. He rushed out and ran to the girl and Mom. Mom was upset. She said that they could talk about the question after school.

Dad disagreed and the two had a small argument on the school steps, which was very bad manners. The little girl started walking away. Her dad grabbed her arm and she quickly answered his question before running off to class.

Meanwhile, a woman in the parking lot saw the argument on the steps. She saw the dad grab his daughter’s arm. She went on social media and made a post: “I saw a man grab a little girl today at school. Watch out for your kids.”

Another parent saw the post and shared the post with his friends. They shared the post with their friends. Soon, everyone in the small town was thinking that a man was trying to kidnap their dear children.

Thinking that some evil man lurked near the school, people started seeing monsters everywhere! If a man stopped to drop off a sandwich for his son at recess, people would go online to post: “I saw a man try to grab a little boy.”

When another man ran up to his girl to give her the sweater she had left at home, people would post: “I saw the bad guy.” And all those posts bounced from cell phone to cell phone.

Before long, people went to the police and reported that a man was trying to steal kids from school. The story reached news reporters. A major television station reported that a man was stalking school kids. The stern announcer warned thousands of people to be on the lookout for this monster.

The police immediately started investigating. They interviewed many of the people who posted sightings of the evil man. The police talked to kids and their parents.

Then they made an official announcement: Nothing had happened. No one was trying to snatch children.

Hundreds of posts and reposts warned of a bad man, but none of the reports were true. No evil monster was trying to grab children from school. The monster was made up by too many people posting false details on social media.

Soon, the panic faded. People forgot about the evil man—and they did not seem to understand that they were the ones who made the monster.

This event really happened in Alberta, Canada, June, 2011.

Now, let’s learn about News.

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School Counselors Using Digital Tech for Safer Schools

school counselors digital technology safety

For decades, school administrators have worked to make school buildings safer. They have done so by locking doors, adding security systems and cameras, hiring law enforcement staff, and installing metal detectors.  Over 90% of schools in the U.S. have security cameras to help staff monitor the school and surrounding area more closely.

In 2016 alone, schools spent $2.7 billion on security systems. A year later, the amount spent almost doubled.

Besides video surveillance, almost 80% of schools track their visitors by asking them to sign into the front desk.

Sure, it’s essential to keep all the outside doors of a school locked and take note of who is in your building, but not all threats are face to face.  We live in a digital world where student data privacy in the classroom is of utmost importance.  And, a lot of your preventative maintenance needs to take place in that same cyber environment. 

So, when threats are made, schools need to right tools to spread the word to teachers and staff quickly. Here are some ideas you may want to try to keep your school safe.

Social Net Watcher

School shooters tend to be narcissists. They often use social media, especially Instagram, to proclaim their manifestos.

One start-up out of Indiana, Social Net Watcher, watches students’ social media accounts for specific phrases that may indicate warnings of violence. They can also be programmed to alert school officials to acts of cyberbullying.


In an emergency, fast communication is essential. TextMagic allows schools to send immediate texts to the staff, students, or parents at the touch of a button.

Texts are the most effective form of communication in an emergency. Teachers may not have access to their computers while they are barricaded in their classrooms.

TextMagic can also be used to alert parents if their children are not in attendance. Parents who may be concerned about the mental health of their children can be warned immediately that their child is not where he is supposed to be. 

Visitor Management System

While most schools have visitors sign in at the reception desk, some schools are taking this precaution to the next level.

Visitors at some schools must present their state or federal ID to the school. These IDs are checked against a national database of registered sex offenders.

Alertus Desktop

Although text messaging is the most effective form of communication during an emergency, at times, a back-up plan is needed. Alertus Desktop can send an immediate alert to every computer screen on campus. This system is particularly helpful for buildings that have notoriously bad cell coverage.

Take a look at what Gordon College learned by implementing Alertus Desktop.  The school felt that its checklist for notifications in emergency systems was too long.  And, It wanted one unified system for keeping people informed.  

The college reports that its decision to streamline communications was extremely beneficial.  “Being able to setup pre-scripted alerts to fire off with one button press or one-click during a crisis can help save lives during an emergency.”

Facial Recognition Software

Although there may be privacy concerns from using biometric data on a school campus, some districts are willing to overlook this opinion to keep their students safe. Programs such as RealNetworks is 98% accurate, and this software will alert school officials if someone of concern is on campus.

GPS Systems

Schools not only need to keep students safe on campus, but they also need to protect their students on buses as well. GPS systems are so sophisticated now that the district will be notified if a driver is reckless.

This software has the added benefit of protecting the school from parent complaints. If parents complain that the bus did not pick up their children that morning, the district can check the GPS to see whether or not the driver really missed the stop.

Edgewood Independent School District in Texas utilized this technology on its fleet of school buses. The system proved beneficial when the local sheriff was able to send the closest officer immediately to a driver who needed assistance.

Safety and Security Film

The doors of a school may be locked, but that doesn’t mean that school shooters can’t break into a building through a window. An American company now has made a thin film that can be placed over the windows of a school building to keep them from breaking.

Fortify the windows of your school with this 3M product. This product will enable responders to have more time to arrive in the event of an emergency.


Schools have the moral and legal responsibility to keep their students safe.

Even though some schools have metal detectors at the door, 7% of high schoolers reported being hurt or threatened with a weapon on school property within the last year.

Even though safety measures have been utilized, nearly 6% of high schoolers have reported that they stayed home from school because they did not feel safe.

What that means to you as an administrator at a school is you need to maximize your resources.  Explore these different options. Then, start to implement  some of these digital technologies and other strategies to keep your school safe

While safety is key, schools should also explore ways to also enhance the learning experience using technology and promote safer internet for schools.

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Should You Interact with Your Child on Social Media?

Mom's online with kids

Social media is an integral part of our lives these days, and that’s doubly true for kids growing up in a post-Facebook world. Since parents and children are often on the same social platforms, it may seem natural to follow your child and interact. Is it a good idea though? The topic is more complex than it seems.

There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Answer

Like so many other issues around parenting, this is a case where every family and child is different. What works for one may not work for another. Family dynamics and the needs of individual kids should dictate the best way to approach social media use. The important thing is to understand that these apps are likely a big part of your child’s social life and that boundaries should be respected—both yours as a parent, as well as your child’s.

The other thing to consider is that if you interact with you child on social media, you’ll need to consider your own social media settings to ensure it doesn’t effect their safety.

Here are three tips to help you navigate the often-murky waters of online interactions with your kids.

1. Have a Frank Discussion About Social Media Boundaries

There’s often no better way to answer these tough questions than just being direct and asking. The reality is that for some kids, having parents involved in their lives is normal, while for others, it’s an embarrassment.

In either case, you should have a talk about appropriate use of social media, information privacy and security, and being safe online so that even if your kids don’t want much interaction, you can help them be smart about what they do on the internet. Even if you don’t interact with them on social media, you can still set and enforce rules for safe web use.

2. Determine If Interactions Would Seem Out of Place

Facebook and even Twitter aren’t the most popular social platforms for teens and kids anymore. Many now spend their time on Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms. So pay attention to which platforms your kids use and how they use them

If you already have accounts on the same platforms that you use on a regular basis, following and interacting with your child may make sense; if you don’t, though, you run the risk of misusing the platform and potentially embarrassing your kid—to the extent that it could cause them to migrate to other platforms or adjust settings so you can’t see as much of their activity.

3. Decide Where Your Motivation Lies

Another way to determine whether you should interact directly with your child on social media is to honestly examine your motives. If you’re only trying to police your child’s activities, you may be wasting your time; it’s relatively easy for kids to adjust privacy settings to control what you can see. It’s also not uncommon for kids to have multiple profiles, with only one visible to family.

If your family already has a trusting, open relationship with one another, it might feel natural and fine for you to interact with them in online spaces. If there’s less trust, though, getting a social media account just to monitor your children or teens could further hurt that relationship. Kids are smarter than many give them credit for—they’ll know if you’re trying to be sneaky.

Boundaries on social media may seem murky to parents, but for kids who’ve had access to these platforms their whole lives, they are often very clear. Navigating this social online world as parents takes finesse, openness, and a willingness to learn. Because in the end, the most important thing is that your kids are safe and happy.

Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate. You can find more of her work at

Where is Everybody on Facebook?

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