The Internet can be a scary place, but it doesn’t have to be if you take the right precautions. When it comes to social media, there is more to it than you may think. In order to comment on something, there is a form of identification involved. Think about that. You provide your name, your email address, and quite possibly your phone number. Someone could very easily take your comment and find that information you gave. The danger can be overlooked. Are you making yourself vulnerable to online predators?
Say you just watched a video on YouTube and you want to leave a comment. In that process, you have given your email already to make the account (without which there can be no comment) and probably a phone number attached to the email account for “security.” If someone really had the drive and motivation to find you, they can. Easily. Most accounts require full names which make predatory outcomes quite possible. All these predators need is your name. They can even look you up in a phone book. Your phone number includes your area code and where you love. They can also call an operator and be switched to speak directly to you. With this minimal information they know your name and where you live. To know what you look like, they can do a Google image search in seconds. They can take the profile picture you provided, put it into google, and more pictures linked to that one will come up (different profiles and accounts belonging to you). Pretty soon, they know where you work, who your friends are, and what you post about on social media.
When you post on platforms like Twitter, even a tech savvy kid can find you fairly easily. It is from this Twitter post that they can track your IP address and location. When you post pictures, people can find out the location of where you posted it, it is embedded in the picture on some platforms. People make it even easier when they attach their location. Many teens post about the next big game. Posting about upcoming games can be a great way to gain publicity and fan support, but it can also raise some serious concerns. These usually include details such as location, time, and date. People will comment about going to the game and who will be there and some even right down to what they are wearing, making them sitting ducks, literally.
Even when you are private on Facebook, people may still be able to see your name and some pictures of you. Do your “friends” ever share your posts or pictures with you? On Twitter and Instagram, people can see your bio (a small amount of information you may put if you want to) and your profile picture along with your name. This is enough information for anyone to begin his or her search. There is a feature on most social media sites that lists people who you might want to follow, based on your online activity. This can lead someone who knows nothing about you to your page. You will most likely have mutual friends, which leads many to allow someone to them and they would follow right back. This opens the door to the “stalker.”
There is always danger in anything that you do online. Even someone knowing your full name or the name of a relative can lead to something serious. The steps below may not make you 100% safe, but they are some steps you can take to protect yourself from online abuse.
Internet Safety Action Plan
- Don’t use your real name for accounts
- Use all available privacy settings
- Don’t attach your location to posts/pictures
- Make a fake email with made up information if you want to comment or post on blogs
- Don’t allow strangers to follow you
- Don’t put your full name somewhere anyone can see
- Don’t engage in conversation with someone you don’t know, even if they say they know your friends