Safety & Social Media
Sometimes, danger lurks in the most innocent of exchanges. When parents use social media such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, and other mass-exposure venues, it is wise to use caution about what information is posted. After all, you never know who main gain access to that information and what malevolence they may have in mind. Below are some tips for staying safe while using social media.
- On most social media sites, you can, in some limited fashion, restrict access to your posts, pictures, etc. For example, on Facebook, you can and should limit access to “friends only”, which means that only those people whom you have accepted as your friends may view your posts and pictures. However, know that this is not a guarantee of safety. People are not always who they say they are on the Internet. Additionally, people can wrongly gain access to information . . . information that they would not have access to if they were following proper protocol.
- Never accept a connection to someone you do not know.
- Never post that you are planning to be away from home or that you are currently away from home. Dangerous posts include, “Tonight is date night! Hubby is taking me to my favorite steakhouse! Just the two of us . . . a romantic evening at last!” , “I am at the grocery store, shopping for our big holiday meal, and the kids are dawdling, so this is taking forever!” , or “I am so looking forward to our Vegas vacation next week!” If no one will be at home, burglars may have a perfect opportunity. If children will be at home without parents (even if with a babysitter), kidnappers, child molesters, rapists, and other evil-doers may have their perfect opportunity. If you really want to post about a trip away from home, do so only upon your return home. However, if your trips away from home occur at regularly scheduled intervals, even posts after the fact can provide a criminal the opportunity to calculate when your next departure will occur.
- Never post your home address or telephone number. Criminals use this information to pay your home a visit. Some even call first to make sure you are not home or to con your kids into believing that they are your friends and will wait in your home for your return.
- Unless you live in a very small community, you can usually safely post your city and state. If you live in a small community, you should post your state only.
- Never post pictures that identify your children, your home address, or other locations at which your children can regularly be located. Pictures of children can entice pedophiles and other criminals, and photographs of frequented locations give them opportunity. If you do post family pictures, do not identify which children are yours and which children may be nieces, nephews, neighbor kids, etc.
- Never post names and ages of your children. Again, this gives criminals opportunity. For example, if you post the names and ages of your three kids, a pedophile could call or visit your home in your absence and report that he is a friend of yours. He could say, “Oh, hi, Miranda! I haven’t seen you since you were a baby, but your mom sends me pictures of you each year in her Christmas card! How are you, Justin, and Chris?” Your child will likely hear this as a sign that he is familiar and safe. When she subsequently lets him in your home to await your return, trouble ensues.
- Never post your children’s interests. If you post that Miranda is a ballerina, certain pedophiles may find that enticing and use that information to locate her (i.e., he may loiter outside various dance studios until he finds her). He may then strike up a conversation with her about how much they have in common (based on your various posts of her interests). This is a recipe for disaster.
By following these tips, you can enjoy the benefits of social media while limiting the safety risks associated with it.
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