Home > Social Network Privacy
Family Safety

Social Network Privacy

Family Safety

Social media is a good way to keep up with friends and family and share life events, but are you sharing more than you intend to? Every social media platform is a little different in the way that it presents content, connects users, and handles privacy. It is important to know these details before you start sharing content and to understand what certain settings do.

Privacy settings can be complex, depending on the platform. Some things might be visible to anyone, but you have differing levels of control over the rest of your information. Here are some steps you can take to secure your profile:

Read the social network’s privacy policy.
This page can usually be found in the settings, in a privacy tab, or at the footer of most pages. It details what the platform does with your information, what it is responsible for, how long it keeps your information, and if it allows other parties to see and use your information. The content on these pages is subject to change, so it’s a good idea to check the page periodically and familiarize yourself with the company’s policies.

Have a good, strong, complex password that you keep to yourself.
Don’t share your social media passwords with anyone (with the exception of children, who should provide their password to their parents in case of emergency). Anyone interacting with your social media account may assume they are interacting with the “real” you, so someone who gets access to your account can really damage your reputation.

Familiarize yourself with a social media platform’s settings before you post anything.
Right after you make your account and before you make your first post, look at the privacy settings and customize who you want to be able to see your information. Ask yourself who you want to see what you post (everyone, friends, certain friends, or just you), how easily findable do you want your profile to be, and what information you want to provide to the social media platform. It’s not a good idea to allow just anyone to be able to see everything you post. Some platforms even give the option to further limit who sees certain posts. Keep in mind that certain things are always visible to anyone visiting your profile, such as your name, profile picture, and any information you may elect to have visible.

Perform a privacy check-up every few months.
Just like privacy policies, privacy settings are also subject to change periodically. Sometimes new features may become available that may make keeping your information private easier. Other times, a change in features might leave some of your information exposed. Go through your privacy settings every few months and make sure they are set the way you want.

Less is more.
Certain social media platforms may ask you to fill in information about yourself to create a more complete profile, but you do not have to supply this information. Some platforms may publicly list where you work, the city you live in, your birthday, and where you went to school if you elect to provide such details. You do not have to give this information in order to have an account, and having that information available can be an opportunity for anyone looking to learn about you. Social media platforms use the information for marketing purposes or to help you make connections with other users that have similar backgrounds, but it might be a good idea to omit these details.

Use good internet etiquette.
Remember to treat others as you would want to be treated, even online. Your reputation matters; employers, friends, family, even your school and other organizations may be able to see what you post. What you say can have real life ramifications. Ask yourself what impact posting a certain joke, article, or picture might have on the people who see it and what they might think of you afterwards. Always keep in mind who might be in the audience of a post and what relation they are to you.

Become familiar with a platform’s blocking and reporting feature.
Social media use can be fun and enjoyable, but every now and then you might run into content or people that make you feel uneasy or may harass or bother you. After making your profile and reviewing your privacy settings, take a moment to become familiar with the platform’s blocking and reporting features. If another user’s profile is harassing you or posting material that you find offensive, blocking the profile will remove that user and their posts from your view and will prevent them from contacting you privately. If you believe that content may be a violation of a site's Terms of Use (these are the rules for using a site’s platform), you can report content for moderation. If a site’s moderator deems that the content violates rules, they may elect to remove it.

Know how and if you can delete your account.
Just like you should familiarize yourself with privacy settings, you should research how to delete your account and your information if you choose to. Some sites will let you deactivate your account, which will allow you to come back to it later on. This is not the same as deleting your account, which would permanently disable your profile. Some companies may hang onto your information even after disabling or deleting your profile, so it’s important to know what their data retention policies are before you share anything.