Social media allows us to stay in touch with friends, express ourselves, and be entertained. But there are also risks you need to be aware of. This guide will provide 7 must-know safety tips to help you and your family stay secure on social media. I‘ll also highlight some of the most private social media platforms available today.
Why Social Media Safety Matters
Before diving into the tips, it‘s important to understand why social media security should be a priority for you:
- Identity theft: Hackers can steal your personal information and photos shared online to commit identity fraud. In 2021, social media scams accounted for 25% of all online fraud reports according to the FTC.
- Cyberbullying: 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberbullying, which can involve harassing messages, threats, or embarrassing photos posted without consent. The effects of cyberbullying include anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
- Harmful content: Without the right safeguards, social media exposes kids to violence, hate speech, and inappropriate videos or groups. 62% of teens say they have had a negative experience on social media according to Pew Research.
- Reputation damage: Content you post as a teen or young adult could resurface years later and jeopardize job or college prospects. Over 90% of employers check candidates‘ social profiles during hiring.
- Privacy invasion: Social networks monetize your information and normalize 24/7 tracking. The average person has 92 accounts with security risks according to a Norton Security survey.
The more vigilant you are on social media, the less vulnerable you‘ll be as an individual, child, or business.
Now let‘s get into social media safety best practices you can start applying right away.
8 Social Media Safety Tips
Use strong passwords. Creating strong, unique passwords is one of the easiest ways to protect your social media accounts from being hacked. Here are a few password tips:
- Use 12-14 characters including upper/lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Avoid any dictionary words or personal info like birthdays.
- Consider using a password manager like Dashlane or LastPass to generate and store secure passwords.
- Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) when available. 2FA requires you to enter a code from your phone when logging in from a new device.
Limit personal info shared. Be highly selective about the personal details you share online. Avoid oversharing information like:
- Home address
- Phone number
- Location data
- School names
- Information about family members
This data can potentially be exploited by cybercriminals. Regularly review your privacy settings and limit your online audience. For example, on Facebook, only allow friends to see your posts by default.
Beware of links. Malicious links are commonly used in phishing scams and to spread malware. Be skeptical of any unsolicited messages, emails, or posts containing links.
- Avoid clicking on shortened URLs as you can‘t see where they really lead.
- Hover over links to preview the actual URL before clicking.
- Turn on link previews in messaging apps when possible.
- Install a reputable antivirus program like Avast or Norton to scan your device.
- Check email header details – phishing emails often have odd sender addresses.
Watch for scams. Scammers frequently leverage social media to steal personal information using phishing tactics. Telltale signs include:
- Messages conveying urgency or demanding immediate action.
- "Deals" that seem too good to be true (free gift cards, prizes, etc.).
- Misspellings and grammatical errors.
- Requests for sensitive info or login credentials.
If something seems even a little bit suspicious, delete the message. You can also block the sender and report them to the social media platform.
Limit location sharing. Check your privacy settings periodically to ensure location sharing is disabled by default. Turn off location history tracking as well.
- Never enable real-time location sharing publicly.
- Review past posts for location tags and remove them.
- Disable location services for your social apps in your phone settings.
- Log out of public Wi-Fi. When accessing social media on public Wi-Fi, always log out of your accounts before leaving the network. Leaving your social media signed in on public Wi-Fi makes it easy for snoops to access your accounts.
Set social media rules for kids. For children and teens, establishing age-appropriate social media rules is crucial:
- Agree on guidelines for who they can connect with and what they can share publicly.
- Make sure location tagging is always disabled.
- Use available parental controls like time limits and privacy settings.
- Have open conversations about being safe and responsible online.
- Remind them to never meet an online friend in person without supervision.
- Delete inactive accounts. If you have old social media accounts that have been abandoned, permanently delete them. Inactive accounts are vulnerable to being hijacked by hackers. Routinely deleting outdated accounts improves your overall online privacy and security.
Besides these everyday precautions, there are a few other important social media safety steps to know.
Backup Your Social Media Data
Backing up your social media data gives you an extra layer of protection. If your account is ever hacked or disabled, you‘ll have a copy of your info and memories. Follow these tips:
- Download your data: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn all allow you to download a copy of your posts, photos, connections, messages, and profile info. Do this regularly in case you ever need it.
- Save important photos/videos: Don‘t rely on social media sites to permanently store your precious memories and photos. Save copies to your computer or external hard drive.
- Print photo books: Turn your favorite social media photos into printed photo albums or framed prints so you always have hard copies.
- Enable cloud backups: Use a secure cloud storage service like pCloud to automatically back up your entire device, including social media data and photos.
How To Report Cyberbullying and Abuse
If you experience harassment, threats, or bullying on social media, report it immediately:
- Report abusive users directly through the platform‘s reporting tools. Provide as many details as possible.
- Block accounts sending inappropriate content so you no longer see their activity.
- Save evidence like screenshots before the content gets deleted. This helps in investigations.
- Notify your school if harassment involves classmates or underage users. They can assist with reports.
- For severe cases of stalking or threats of violence, contact local law enforcement.
Don‘t tolerate abuse online. Speaking up helps protect yourself and others.
Social Media Safety for Businesses
For companies, proper social media security is also essential:
- Secure company social accounts with strong passwords and 2FA.
- Limit account access to only employees who need it. Revoke access immediately for departing staff.
- Establish rules about acceptable use of company social accounts.
- Never share sensitive customer or financial data publicly.
- Monitor comments and messages for signs of fraud or phishing.
- Use social media management platforms like Hootsuite to enhance oversight.
- Participate in social media privacy training to stay up-to-date on risks.
What Are the Safest Social Media Apps?
Mainstream platforms like Facebook and Instagram connect billions of users, but have faced growing criticism over poor privacy practices, data handling, and user safety.
If you‘re looking for safer, more private social media options, here are a few top choices:
Signal is an encrypted messaging app that allows for secure private conversations and group chats. All messages, calls, photos, videos and Voice Messages sent through Signal are encrypted end-to-end by default.
Signal stores minimal user data. Chat history is encrypted locally on each device rather than Signal‘s servers. It offers the level of privacy and security needed for sensitive communications.
In addition to private messaging, Signal has a Stories feature similar to Snapchat and Instagram. Overall, Signal is the most secure mainstream messaging app available.
Telegram is another highly-rated secure messaging app. It uses end-to-end encryption for all chats, voice calls and video calls. Telegram also supports encrypted group chats with up to 200,000 members.
Like Signal, Telegram stores little user data and chat history is encrypted device-to-device. Telegram has streamlined social features like groups, channels, bots, and usernames.
Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social network platform. It is an ad-free, non-profit alternative to commercial sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Mastodon is comprised of independent communities and servers. There are no centralized servers hosting your data or content. This distributed model means no single entity has ownership or control.
It features chronological timelines, 500 character posts, hashtagging, and other social capabilities. Users can join an existing server or launch their own based on shared interests.
PixelFed is an ethical image and video sharing platform similar to Instagram, built on the decentralized ActivityPub protocol.
User data resides across independent servers rather than one centralized service. PixelFed supports end-to-end encryption for direct messages as well.
The platform is transparent, ad-free, and gives you granular control over privacy settings. If you want an Instagram-like experience with better privacy, PixelFed is a great option.
Social Media Safety FAQs
The most secure mainstream social media platform currently is WhatsApp. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption for all messages, calls, photos, videos and Voice Messages exchanged between users. This means WhatsApp cannot view or listen to your private conversations. WhatsApp also does not store chat history online. Everything is encrypted device-to-device only. For individuals and businesses requiring secure instant messaging and group chat, WhatsApp is the top choice.
Some of the safer social media apps designed specifically for kids include:
- Pinwheel – Kid-friendly network with parental controls. Kids ages 6-12 can connect with friends in a moderated environment.
- Lego Life – Social platform focused on Lego creations. Parents must approve new friends and activity.
- PopJam – Creativity app for kids with dancing, drawing, and photo editing. Parents can limit screen time and filter content.
- Roblox – Popular gaming app with parental controls like chat filters, privacy settings, and avatar restrictions.
- YouTube Kids – Video app designed for children, with customizable controls and filtering.
The key is finding age-appropriate, moderated platforms that enable parental oversight. Avoid apps with public commenting and sharing.
Is TikTok safe for kids?
Many parents are wary of TikTok due to privacy concerns, mature content, and social pressures associated with the app. However, with the right settings and involvement, TikTok can be safer for kids ages 13+:
- Enable Family Pairing to manage screen time, filtering, and messaging controls.
- Set your child‘s account to "Private" so only approved followers see content.
- Restrict comments on your child‘s videos or set to "Friends Only".
- Use Restricted Mode to limit inappropriate videos.
- Have open discussions about security, being appropriate online, and not sharing personal details.
- Randomly check your child‘s posted videos, direct messages, and followers.
Proper precautions are essential given TikTok‘s risks. Frequent monitoring is also key while your child is active on the app.
It‘s clear social media requires an increased level of awareness, caution, and knowledge to use safely in today‘s landscape. But you‘re now equipped with actionable tips to protect yourself, your family, and your business while engaging online.
Stay vigilant, think before posting, and don‘t hesitate to report any harassing behavior. Share this article with friends and family to spread social media safety awareness. With prudence and care, we can all benefit from social media while reducing privacy and security risks.