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When using social media, it’s valuable to know important safety tips to protect yourself and your information.
Yet, knowing exactly how to protect yourself on multiple social media subscriptions can be overwhelming and frustrating. We’ll highlight the best methods for keeping you and your children safe online while maintaining a social media presence. By following these social media safety tips, and using security products like the best password managers, you can help keep your personal info secure.
What are the safest social media apps?
Social media safety FAQs
8 social media safety tips
Some social media safety tips are more commonly understood, such as thinking about what information you’re sharing online and not sharing your home address with strangers.
But there are less-known methods cybercriminals use to attempt to get your data too. Read below to find out how you can protect yourself and your family while enjoying Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.
1. Strengthen your passwords
A strong password is long, using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters that aren’t connected to your personal information or are easy for a hacker to guess. Here are two more ways you can keep your password confidential.
Use a password manager
A study found that 80% of those surveyed find remembering passwords difficult. It helps to use a password manager that secures your passwords in one protected place. Additionally, this makes it easier not to reuse the same passwords or write passwords down, which are threats to your cybersecurity. Here are some password managers that can help enhance your online security:
- NordPass: NordPass comes from the trusted Nord name, and it has the protection to prove it. Your passwords, profiles, and credit cards are all protected with XChaCha20 encryption.
Get NordPass | Read Our NordPass Review
- 1Password: 1Password is a top-notch password manager with no history of being hacked. It has strong security features, regularly participates in third-party audits, and includes unique features like Travel Mode and Watchtower for further protection.
Get 1Password | Read Our 1Password Review
- RoboForm: RoboForm is a solid option if you want an affordable password manager with no frills. It's easy to navigate and functional, even if you opt for the free plan.
Get RoboForm | Read Our Roboform Review
Use multi-factor authentication
Consider using a multi-factor authentication (MFA) sign-on program. MFA requires you to provide multiple factors to authenticate your identity and protect your sign-on from bad actors attempting to gain unauthorized access.
Even if a password may have been compromised in an online breach, MFA secures the entry point from an attacker by going beyond a single sign-on (SSO) program that only uses one factor — your password — for account access.
2. Be careful about what you post online
You may already be aware that you should be cautious about what you share on social media, but you may not realize that even the most innocent activities could be used by hackers to break into your accounts.
This includes posting fun quiz results that include personal information, such as a street you grew up on, for example. Although it may seem harmless, this basic information can be used by cybercriminals to answer security questions or even figure out your password.
3. Disable location services
When you allow social media sites to continuously access your location, you’re potentially giving cybercriminals a chance to see where you live and work. Social media sites can track where you are at any given moment. The solution to this safety issue is to disable your location services on each website.
Facebook and other social media sites also use tracking cookies behind the scenes to track your movements online and collect data about you. These cookies are used primarily to display ads to you based on your online activity, but they could also reveal additional information about you to cybercriminals.
4. Create separate accounts if you use social media for business
When you use social media for your business, it’s important to create a separate personal and professional profile.
This compartmentalization makes it harder for cybercriminals to gain access to your personal information and hack into your personal or business account. They’ll have to work harder to locate your information and connect your business details with your personal account.
5. Be cautious about clicking links
When using social media, you should always be cautious about clicking any links. There are a few ways that links can be harmful to you:
Phishing and smishing scams
These fraudulent messages look like they’re from a legitimate company, so you’re more likely to click on the tainted links and unknowingly give your details away.
If you receive a message that asks you to click on a link or download an attachment, first ask yourself if you already have a relationship with the company. If you feel suspicious about the communication, review these phishing tips before taking action.
Legitimate organizations won’t typically email or text with links asking for payment details, so it may be best to look up the company’s contact information and reach out to them directly to verify whether the communication is authentic.
Social media links can also be used to spread malware. Clicking on an infected link can have bad consequences for your phone or laptop device.
Malware is designed to harm your device, and some types, such as keyloggers, collect information like passwords from your device.
If you believe malware has infected your computer or phone, it is best to run a malware scan with a trusted antivirus program as soon as possible. The antivirus can help protect your device from further infection too.
6. Block suspicious or unfriendly accounts
When you block someone on social media, the individual can no longer interact with you. Blocking someone who is harassing you prevents them from seeing your profile or social media posts, so a scammer has a harder time obtaining your information.
Conversely, if a stranger on social media is a little bit too friendly, you should go slow with your interactions and remain cautious of the fact that you could be speaking to a cybercriminal.
One way these criminals get your data is by adding you to their social media profile and to quickly start chatting with you to establish rapport. Their end goal is to gain your trust and obtain your financial details.
7. Update your privacy settings
You may be aware of the risk of posting too much personal information on social media, but did you know that simply changing your privacy settings can reduce your risks?
When you post something on social media, you could allow outsiders permission to view, share, and possibly exploit that information. Hackers could use this public information to guess passwords and access your accounts. For this reason, keeping your privacy settings up to date on each platform will reduce the likelihood of your information being used by cybercriminals.
As you update your settings, consider who you’d like to be able to see your posts. Facebook, for example, has a privacy setting that allows only your friends to see your posts. By changing your settings to allow only trusted individuals to see your personal life, you’re helping to keep your information safe from hackers.
8. Delete your social media account
Many of us have a few social media accounts that we no longer use. No matter how many social media safety tips you follow with your current accounts, sometimes it is best just to delete any unused social accounts as an extra safety precaution.
Unless you’re keeping up with a social media safety routine, old accounts can pose a security risk. Cybercriminals can locate your old account and use it to steal your information or use your account for a social engineering attack, for example.
Nostalgia aside, it’s best to delete any accounts that aren’t useful to you. The less information you have on the web, the safer you are.
As a reminder, even if you delete your social media account, most social media platforms keep data backups. Additionally, other users may have saved your data before you deleted your account, still making it accessible on the web.
What are the safest social media apps?
Social media platforms that focus on privacy give you more control over your personally identifiable information and can help make you less of a target for identity theft. And technology continues to adapt for the better, including decentralization with open-source software that allows anyone to view and change the coding structure.
What this means is that there are safer options in terms of privacy versus the mainstream social media apps for both kids and adults. Here are four social networking sites that offer more privacy:
Mastodon is a free platform that’s most similar to Twitter, where you can write posts, tag users, and share media such as photos and videos.
Unlike Twitter, you can write longer posts, and the platform allows more control regarding who can access your feed. You get access to your own individual server and can interact with other profiles, or other people’s servers, within the platform. The social media site also allows you to sync your Twitter connections and easily follow them.
Diaspora’s website claims to be “the online social world where you are in control.” Like Mastodon, it’s also founded on the principles of decentralization and privacy.
Instead of merely having “public” or “friends” categories for sharing information, Diaspora lets you share your posts to your contacts based on various categories like “co-workers,” for example. This enables you to keep family photos and information private from your general acquaintances. The platform allows you to share photos, videos, and status updates with your following.
Signal is an app that allows the sharing of media files and messages and uses end-to-end encryption for enhanced privacy between the sender and receiver. This makes it highly secure for messaging and protecting your information.
You can also choose to make your messages disappear within a certain time frame, which allows more privacy than a traditional social media website.
Telegram is another app with end-to-end encryption for secure messaging. Telegram offers a “secret chat” feature that allows your messages to self-destruct. Along with the secret chats, phone calls, individual chats, and group chats are available. This program also allows you to set up bots to quickly get information or automate tasks.
Social media safety FAQs
What’s the most kid-friendly social media app?
With the claim of being “the world’s largest social media network for kids”, Zigazoo is our choice for the most kid-friendly social media application for both kids and parents.
Zigazoo can be found in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. It allows kids to stay in touch with friends and family while sharing photos, videos and messages. The app also introduces your kids to the concept of staying organized by offering calendar and to-do list features.
Additionally, the application provides ample parental controls for you to keep safety a top priority. Parents can monitor their kids’ online activities as well as block websites, place time limits, and create keyword filters.
Is Instagram or Snapchat safer for children?
Although both Instagram and Snapchat have some robust parental control features, we chose Instagram as the better option for online safety. Here’s why:
Instagram has parental control features where you can supervise your child’s account, including who follows your child. It also recommends features, such as setting time frames for social media use and receiving alerts for reporting.
If your child is under 16 years of age, their account is automatically set to a private status, so outsiders have to submit a request to follow them. Moreover, adults are prohibited from sending messages to children 17 years or under unless the child is following them.
Snapchat introduced its own parental controls in August 2022. Through the privacy settings, you can choose who can send Snaps, view Stories or see your child’s location on the Snap Map. Unlike Instagram, Snapchat automatically sets your posts for public viewing until you change that feature in your settings. Snapchat’s default setting translates into your child only receiving messages from people in their friend category.
Unlike Instagram’s feed, parents cannot see the Snapchat content their child is putting out into the world or what content they’re receiving from others — parents can only see who their children have communicated with during the past week.
Additionally, Snapchat’s privacy settings per Snap are inevitably locked in. Even if your child changes their overall privacy settings to private, their previous Snaps remain on the same privacy settings from when they were initially snapped.
Is TikTok OK for kids?
In a recent survey, we found that one in four parents feel TikTok is harming children. Whatever your thoughts on this popular social platform are, TikTok does allow you to activate Family Pairing. This service links your account to your child’s account and allows certain safety features, such as viewing the length of time your child is online and being able to limit that time.
TikTok parental features also include what type of content can be viewed, options for a public or private account, and direct messaging options. Parents have the choice to disable direct messaging, and the app is configured to stop anyone from sending messages to a child 16 years of age or younger.
Everyone wants to have a good time and stay connected to their loved ones on social media. By taking these easy steps, you can rest assured that you and your family are interacting in safe ways online.
As you implement these precautions and update your social media privacy settings, remember to talk to your children about your concerns and ways to stay safe online. You can also protect their devices with the best browser extensions for privacy and security.