Being a Gen Y-er and growing up with social media, this is something I’ve had plenty of experience in, both good and bad.
1. Privacy is really important. Seriously.
This is one of those lessons I had to learn the hard way. When MySpace and MSN were all the rage, nobody really cared about security. It was all about talking to random people, collecting friends, sharing statuses. I guess back then, privacy wasn’t really an option. I mean, I’m sure there were basic features, but it wasn’t talked about or really known, and nobody did it. It’s only relatively recently that companies such as Facebook have gotten people to seriously focus on it, myself included. My social media settings are pretty much on maximum now – I only share things with people I’m friends with on Facebook and Instagram, people can’t message me on Facebook without being friends with me first, people can’t see any personal details about me without being my friend.
The trigger for all this started about six years ago, when I started to become really close to one of my now best friends. He was going through stalker issues that at the time, I knew nothing about. He was embarrassed and we’d only just gotten to really know each other so it just hadn’t come up. I was contacted on both Facebook and YouTube by someone who was telling me awful things about my friend, stuff that I at first assumed to be true as I didn’t understand what was going on. It really upset him I believed it, but in my defense, it was early days and I’d never had any sort of contact with stalkers before so I just didn’t really understand. After that, I removed all my YouTube content and switched to super private mode on everything. It’s not worth the risk or hassle to have it set any other way, and ultimately I’m not sharing things for my friend’s brother’s cousin’s wife to see, I’m sharing it for people I know.
2. Parents, perverts are real. They’re out there. Take it seriously.
Again, I know this from experience. While kids use different platforms than I used to, I guarantee the same sickos still lurk there, waiting for your child to try to meet some new friends in cyberspace. That’s why I started talking to people I didn’t know on MSN. I don’t even remember where I met them (maybe they added me), but they seemed nice enough at first. They’d let you talk about school and friend dramas and they always seemed relatable. They’d talk to your for awhile, and you think “okay, this is fine”. This one guy I spoke to didn’t even bother trying to hide the fact he was 30-something, which I suppose was lucky in one way – if he had of pretended to be my age, who knows what could have happened? After awhile, he started asking more personal questions. One I remember in particular was “what bra size are you?”. Then suddenly, he’s sending naked pictures of himself. Luckily, I was smart enough to delete and block him straight away. I wasn’t out looking for this kind of thing, but it found me anyway. Kids are online more than ever (a lot more than I was back then), and it’s so easy for pervs to contact them. Most gadgets and social media have privacy controls. Learn them, set them. More than that, educate your kids. You can change settings all you like but kids can always turn them off. Don’t expect schools to monitor your children for you, don’t expect your kids to listen to their boring teacher when they try to teach cyber safety. Sit them down and explain it to them so they’ll understand – you know your kids better than anyone else. If you don’t understand technology, research it. It might save your child’s life. Also, don’t think “oh, they’re too young for me to tell them about the mean old world”. I know I just said you know your kids better than anyone, and it’s true, however I firmly believe if they’re old enough for gadgets such as iPads, laptops and phones, they’re old enough to be told the dangers of it. My friend is a grade one teacher (the kids are between 6 and 7 years old). For the two years she’s been teaching that level, she’s had countless awkward situations where she’s caught the kids looking up porn, googling “girls kissing” and all sorts of other mindblowing stuff. Your kids are curious. They see it on TV, their friends talk about it. If you don’t educate them, they could end up learning about the dangers the hard way. I can’t stress this enough.
3. Don’t send game invites. Nobody is going to start playing because you sent them. You just piss everyone off.
I know this is one of the biggest annoyances on social media. No, we don’t want play Candy Crush, we don’t want extra corn on FarmVille, we don’t want extra coins on Bingo Pop. If we wanted to play, we’d do it without you spamming us. Thankfully, there’s a way to turn off these annoying invites on Facebook, and anyone who has those annoying friends who don’t seem to get it should probably learn how – it’ll save your sanity. And to those of you who do it, think before you press “invite to play”. Sure, you might earn a small bonus for it, but you also lose the respect of all the people you spam.
4. If someone posts an offer that seems too good to be true, it is!
You’d think people would be able to spot a scam when they see one by now. We aren’t in 1998 any more where everything is new and scary. Sure, scams aren’t quite as obvious as the old “Prince of Nigeria” emails, but they aren’t challenging if you’re aware of them either. I see countless people in my newsfeed posting things they shouldn’t be, spreading the scam further across cyberspace. The easiest way to spot something dodgy is to look at the link – does the website look like it’s legit? Most scams on social media these days pretend to be from major companies. Do you really think Qantas would use abc.squizzers.com to give away “free tickets”? Second thing to look for, is the spelling and grammar correct? Almost always, the website is poorly written, have extremely bad grammar and often the spacing in weird too. If American Express were to run a promotion, don’t you think they’d pay someone big bucks to make an impressive website and, I don’t know, use spell check? Lastly, use your common sense. Do you really think your local movie outlet is giving away free screenings “for the first 1000 people”? That would put them out of business. Do you really think your favourite airline is giving away “a trip anywhere in the world” if you share the link with all your friends? Nothing is for free in this world, and that is especially true in cyberspace. A lot of people have the mentality of “well, if it’s not real then I haven’t lost anything”. Wrong. Firstly, those scams ask for personal information. At best, you’ll probably get heaps of junk email now flooding your inbox. At worst, you could open your computer up for malware and wind up being hacked. On top of that, if you’ve shared the link with people and they’ve been sucked in too, you’ve also dragged them down the same path. If the link is even potentially dodgy, don’t click it! If it’s from a big company, go to their official website. If the offer isn’t listed there, it isn’t real.
5. Don’t post things you don’t want the whole world to see.
I know I harped on about privacy settings and educating your kids about cyber safety, and I’m not taking anything away from the importance of that. You just need to be aware that anything you post has the potential to be saved, shared, copied and otherwise spread around, no matter how careful you are. If you don’t want to risk that “cute” picture of your naked toddler winding up on some perverts computer harddrive, don’t post it. If you don’t want your dick pics or boob snaps shared, don’t send them. If you don’t want people knowing where you live, don’t check in there. While privacy settings are generally pretty good, it doesn’t mean other people have the same settings or your best interests are heart. It doesn’t take much for things to get leaked, and 99.9% of the time, it isn’t going to make you famous like Kim K. It’s more likely to do a lot of psychological damage to you instead. There was a big focus on sexting the media a little while ago, and victims were saying how their ex’s shared their naked pictures and sex tapes with everyone, and how it’s ruined their lives. When asked why they thought it was a good idea in the first place, they went on and on about it being their choice and nobody has the right to tell them they can’t do it. I’m not going to argue with that – if those people still have that mentality after all they’ve been through, then I say let them do it, but don’t be surprised if it happens again. It doesn’t matter how in love with someone you are, and how amazing a person you think they they are, if things go south, they have some seriously damaging stuff. It might seem like cheeky, harmless fun at the time but it can come back to haunt you. Think about it before you share it.
That’s my top five tips. What’s yours?
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