What Teenagers Need to Know about Being Safe on Social Media

We live in the age of digital media, where everything is online. The online world is trending and, of course, teenagers want to be on top of it. However, what most social media users fail to understand; is that this scenario also provides pleasantly abundant hunting grounds for criminals and cyberbullies too. We are exposed to all kinds of dangers when we venture into the online world and need to develop an instinct that can protect us from falling victim to the numerous threats out there.

To better understand the online world we share our data with, we gathered some opinions from professionals in the online world, including cybersecurity experts.

Don’t Believe Everything

“The greatest advice I would give to the teenagers who use social media is, don’t presume that anyone you encounter on the internet is who they say they are. It doesn’t matter if some websites claim to link students from the same school. The information given by users during registration is not confirmed. A user profile can be created by someone pretending to be someone else. Furthermore, anybody can enter as many school groups as they want, regardless of their actual age.”

Miklos Zoltan, CEO & Cybersecurity Researcher Privacy Affairs

Set Your Privacy Settings

“I believe that any social media platform has options for controlling what you post and who sees it. Make use of these options to lock down your account. Allow friends access to your data, but set up a user group or two for accounts you’d rather keep private. People who aren’t explicitly linked to your account should be locked out. Never share your phone number, address, bank account information, or any other information that could reveal your personal passwords online. Make sure your passwords are powerful, change them frequently, and keep them private at all times.”

Sam Browne, CEO/Founder Find a Band

Be Careful with Your Personal Information

“I would advise the teens to use caution when disclosing personal details. The problem with uploading personal information on the Internet is that you lose control of who sees it and how it is used once it is online. At the click of a button, images can be quickly copied and exchanged with 100,000s of others. The images may also be manipulated or distorted due to their digital existence. Don’t upload any photos that you wouldn’t want anyone in your life to see, including your parents and teachers.”

Michael Robinson, Security Expert Cheap SSL Certificates

Don’t Allow Them To Post Photos Or Videos Which Jeopardize Their Safety Or Character

“I believe that although the majority of people post pictures and videos with the best of intentions, it’s easy for things to be misinterpreted or taken out of context, and when everyone is online, sending the wrong message can have long-term consequences. Discuss this with your children and make sure they understand that they can only share photos and videos that portray themselves and others in a positive light.”

Edward Mellett, Founder/Co-Founder WikiJob.co.uk

Don’t Post Information That Could be Used to Find You Offline

“The best advice for teenagers using social media is, don’t post something hat could be used to track you down offline. You might unintentionally give away knowledge that might aid others in locating you. If you’re going to share a picture of something identifiable in it, like a car registration plate or a landmark, be careful. Additionally, refrain from writing on blogs things like I normally walk school down the lane by the river. Some people will piece together small pieces of details about you over a long period of time.”

Ben Richardson, Director and  CEO of Development Academy

Be Careful What you Post

“Social media can be a dangerous space to play in, especially for today’s generation of teens. The launch of social media has made life complicated for teens, everything you do can be recorded or broadcasted to the masses at any moment. My advice for teens when it comes to using social media is to understand whatever you decide to put on social media is permanent information. Be more of a consumer rather than a contributor. Be careful about what you post and what you say. Social media can be your biggest fan, or your darkest enemy!”

Michael Scott Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Harper+Scott

Privacy Settings and Be Cautious of Online People

“Ensure you set up your privacy settings as the first safety measure. Exposure to any public post can be damaging to a teenager and might corrupt your mind. In addition, setting your privacy preferences limits the number of people who can view your posts online in the case where you post sensitive information. A critical piece of advice for teens on social media is always to be yourself. That way, you will attract the people who will be your real online friends. However, never agree to meet them offline but instead treat them as a potential predator because regardless of their good intentions online, you don’t know them. Be cautious of friend requests and only accept recommendations from your friends in the real world. Some of the friend requests are just spam bots which means you’ll be spamming your friends. Others get created by fake users who enjoy cyberbullying. So before you accept a friend request, always check their profile and confirm if they are legit. Never give up your password to anyone or share your contact information in a post or your profile. Your online safety is directly proportional to the private information you share. It’s important to think before you post what you are thinking or feeling. Though you may delete a post, always keep in mind, the internet never forgets.”

Harriet Chan, Co-founder & Marketing Director CocoFinder

Limit Social Media Usage

“For decades, the internet has given rise to cyber threats. Social media platforms that are targeted at the younger generations can be particularly vicious for a multitude of reasons. Adolescence is always a tricky time but adding in societal pressures from influencers and Instagram models can be detrimental for insecurities around body image and success. Comparison is thought to be the thief of all joy which is proven through the vast majority of young social media users that experience disdain for their personal lives and identities after scrolling through their explore pages. Social media use amongst the youth should be taken in doses, that way they can detach themselves from the altered version of reality they see on their phone screens and stay grounded in the real world. Young social media users should also always be hypervigilant while perusing their timelines because a great deal of what you see is fictional and not always an exact reflection of everyday life but more of an imitation.”

Benjamin Smith, Founder of Disco

Don’t Divulge Private Information

“The most important thing teens need to understand about social media is that nothing is private. No matter how carefully you cultivate your friend list and put things on private, everything you post on social media can be found by people outside of your social circles. This means that even if everyone you know is posting selfies and complaining about jobs and school, it is extremely important to never post any of your personal information online, not even your first name. Someone who knows just your first name can often use other clues in your photos, such as destination information or even school name to track you down. Safe topics to post about (generally) include favorite games, movies, books, songs, and other forms of media, generic complaints or feelings about things going on in your life, and photos that are carefully selected to not reveal identifying information. Be careful when posting photos of food bought at restaurants, for instance, as receipts and window views can reveal your location. Teens should never reveal their school name, what city they live in, and be very careful about revealing the names of teachers, friends, and family members, as any of these can be used to figure out more detailed Information.”

Deborah Goldberg is an internet safety expert with USInsuranceAgents.com