How to stay safe online

We all love social media, me included. But after watching a segment this morning on Studio Ten about social media increasingly factoring in major crimes, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of the ideas that were talked about on TV and my own thoughts on how to stay safe online. In an ideal world, we would all have the freedom to post what we want, but our perception of what is private is no longer truly that.

I wish I could say that this was all a bit far-fetched and that online stalking and crimes were rare. But Queensland police have mentioned the involvement of social media platforms in their official reports of at least 20 violent crimes last year. Maybe it’s time we took online safety more seriously.

The difficulty I face is I use social media for my business as well as my private life, so there is a balance to be had. Whether your posting habits are for promotional purposes or personal contact with others, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

GO tracker: This was the first point raised on Studio Ten and one that can give everything away. If it’s not turned off, automatically on a post your location can be published. This might be your place of residence or work, but you need to consider if this is something you wish to share with either the public of those you consider online friends.

Friends and followers: It’s worthy to note that the term “friend” online is not a true and reliable one in person. Over the years, lists and followers grow and you might not remember every person you are connected with. Your profiles are also able to be screen shot and sent to others.

Travel: This is especially relevant if you live in a house that can be easily accessed. If you are posting when you are away, whether a long overseas trip or for a weekend, consider if you have also posted photos of your home or if many people know where you live. This allows you to be an easy target for theft.

Real time location: This can apply for people who have a profile but also for anyone. Be careful when posting your location in real time. Consider if that post can wait an hour or can it be saved for later? If it’s real time, does it give away exactly where you might be?

Daily routines: Do you post where you always go to eat? Your favourite restaurants or park with the kids? It’s not always so difficult to work out someone’s routine or where they might be based on past posts.

Children: This is probably the most controversial and talked about topic. There are people out there who say we shouldn’t post photos of children as they don’t have a say and will be embarrassed when they are older. But it’s not embarrassment I’m so concerned about, rather safety. Consider some of the above points. Are you posting photos publicly of children where their location can be identified (whether they are in the photo or not and it is just from a caption), where they go to school, day care, pre-school or play sport? What about their school uniform? Can it be identified? Are you posting photos of someone else’s children? Some people think I’m being over cautious, but there is not one photo on my public profile of a child where I have not asked their parents for permission. I still text my cousins with the photo of their children attached to ask if it’s ok. Children are the biggest concern when it comes to social media. Whilst it might be a lovely idea to share photos with family and friends, reconsider sharing them for everyone else to see. You might want people to get to know who you are online or think it’s great for business, but you just don’t know the people who are watching and what their intensions are.

I might seem strange that a Sexologist is weighing in on safety and social media, but it’s something I constantly have to consider in my own life. When you put a fraction of your life out there for the public to see, you are always looking over what you have posted and what implications there might be.

Lastly, always check over your social media platforms. Sometime we post without thinking or in a hurry or our opinions might change. (Your opinion might even change after reading this). Take time once a week to check through and make sure you have not posted anything that puts you, your children or other people at risk.

And if you are ever confused about what to post and what not to post – use your common sense (although I worry not everyone has that these days).

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