Social media plays a large role in how students communicate today. Students like you can use these networks to make friends, discover local events, and discuss the most significant issues in their lives.
While social media is filled with opportunities, there are also dangers. You may be targeted for fraud, bullying, and other types of abuse. You can also endanger yourself and your future careers by creating posts that can’t be easily erased from the internet.
Protecting yourself is easy if you follow some essential safety tips. Here are ten social media safety tips for students that can make a difference:
- Set a strong password, and change it often
- Review and confirm all of your privacy settings
- Be careful about who you accept as friends
- Watch out for impersonators
- Block strangers who are nosy or cruel
- Keep personal details private
- Avoid posting personal and identifying pictures
- Be careful when posting about specific people
- Don’t make public posts about your job or school
- Avoid posting when you’re in a bad mood
Let’s explore each of these tips in more detail.
1. Set a strong password, and change it often
This first safety tip applies from the moment you create any social media account. Your private account information is often far more detailed than the data you share, so you need to keep it private by setting a strong password.
Follow these tips to create one that can’t be easily guessed:
- At least eight characters (as many as characters as you can remember is better)
- Mix uppercase and lowercase letters
- Mix letters and numbers
- Include a special character such as: ! @ # ?
Once you’ve set your password, set a reminder on your phone to change your password every few months.
2. Review and confirm all of your privacy settings
Each social media network you join will offer different privacy options. Ensure that you review these options in full and make any changes you can to protect yourself better. The following options (when available) are usually a good idea:
- Make your posts visible only to your friends
- Limit private messages to only your friends
- Set your profile so that search engines can’t discover it
New options may become available, and the protections may change over time. Check your settings regularly to verify that you’re still protected.
3. Be careful about who you accept as friends
Don’t automatically accept every friend request that you receive. It’s best to limit your friends to people you’ve met in real life or who you know to be part of your wider social circle. Remember that any strangers you invite to read your posts may share them with people you haven’t approved.
4. Watch out for impersonators
Fake accounts are a severe problem on nearly every major social network. These accounts may use the names and images of people you know for fraud.
If you notice any strange online behavior by people you know in real life—such as requests for cash—confirm that the accounts are real by contacting those people through another means of communication. Even just a phone call can help you confirm the account is genuine.
5. Block strangers who are cruel or nosy
You can choose to befriend strangers or allow people without friend connections to read your posts. However, if these people use these privileges to try to bully you or get personal information you haven’t yet provided, you should block them before the behavior gets out of hand.
6. Keep personal details private
Certain information should never be listed in your posts because it could be used to locate you or to impersonate you for the purposes of fraud. This information includes:
- Your home address
- Your phone number
- Identifying numbers such as student ID, or social security
- Your class schedule
You should be careful about even posting this information in your private messages. Your friends may not have passwords that are as strong as yours.
7. Avoid posting personal and identifying pictures
Don’t underestimate the amount of information that can be pulled from personal images. Review all photos before you post them to assess whether they could help anyone discover:
- The home or dorm where you live
- The places that you frequent such as coffee shops
- Any organizations where you have a membership
- The classes that you’re attending
It can be a good idea to regularly review all of your past images and remove any that you’re no longer comfortable sharing.
8. Be careful when posting about specific people
You don’t have any power to delete posts that have been copied or screen-capped by others. For that reason, you should always think carefully about the things you say to or about other people.
Any posts you make that are inflammatory, defamatory, or offensive may follow you around. The people you’ve mentioned may have the right to take legal action against you if the posts are harassing or violate other laws.
9. Don’t make public posts about your job or school
You should think very carefully before you make any public posts about your job or school. Just because you have freedom of speech does not mean that you are free to say anything without repercussions.
Your school or your work can end their associations with you based on things you say online. If you need to vent about problems you’re having, you should make sure that it stays in your direct messages.
10. Avoid posting when you’re in a bad mood
Some of the rules of online safety can be hard to remember. One of the best ways to protect yourself in all cases is not to post when you’re most likely to make impulsive decisions. Avoid posting when you’re in a lousy mood to avoid making mistakes that will follow you for a long time.