Joseph Yeager has guest posted a few times, for good reason. He has some great information about keeping safe online.
Take a look at this image from someone’s Facebook profile. I found this person randomly by looking through a high school alumni group’s membership list. What you’re seeing here is just a portion of the man’s profile after I took steps to protect his identity:
Here’s what I learned about this person by looking at his profile and timeline:
• I know which high school he went to and when he graduated.
• I know where he was born and where he lives now.
• I know several members of his family, including his brother, stepmother and teenage daughter.
• I know when he was married.
• I know that he recently lost his dog to cancer.
• I know which sports teams and TV shows he likes.
• I know that he was recently in North Carolina at the USS North Carolina Battleship Museum.
• I know a whole lot more!
You might be asking yourself why this type of article is important or even relevant on a site that is dedicated to bullying. The answer is that the less information that you make available to people, the less ammunition they will have to use against you online. Related to that, not all cyberbullies target people that are known to them, but I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, I want to stay focused on what you can do to help protect yourself and your family.
If I were a cyber predator, I have more than enough information to go in for the kill on that man. His was the very first profile in the group that I attempted to view; he practically put the bullseye on himself.
Not only could I target him, but also his friends and family. People are often their own worst enemy when it comes to their online activities. It only takes minutes to modify privacy settings, but many people fail to do it. One area that often gets overlooked is how someone else’s privacy settings can affect them.
Let me explain the graphic from above: your child has their privacy settings done right – only their immediate friends can see what they post. However, they just posted a picture onto their Facebook Timeline of a group of friends at a party. Some of the others in the picture decide to share the picture onto their Timelines. Next thing you know, the image that was supposed to be private to a select few may now be available to the entire Facebook world, based on that person’s privacy settings, not your child’s settings.
In another scenario, your child tags some of the other kids in the photo. That automatically puts it onto their Timelines, again, potentially making the image visible to anyone using Facebook. To avoid this from happening, avoid tagging others in photos and ask your friends not to share photos that they themselves post.
Recognizing the potential threat, Facebook itself took steps last year by changing the default settings for new accounts used by minors. Prior to October 2013, all postings by minors were automatically set to “public”, meaning that they would be viewable by the whole world if they were not changed. Now, it’s the opposite; new users need to change their settings to make things public. A great idea for minors; I wish they would do it for all new users, not just minors because it can be the parent that puts their children at risk if they share a status update from them.
Previously, I mentioned the case where the predator may not even know the person that they target. The internet community has a name for people that like to stir up trouble online: troll. The link in the previous sentence discusses trolls that lurk in online groups, but they have unfortunately branched out to social media. From their perspective, it’s a target rich environment!
Based on what ammunition that predators can find on someone’s social media accounts, they can target someone and even make it appear as though they know the person. This point is made painfully clear in this video, that I think everyone should watch before they start using social media. Notice how the people that “know” Sarah in the video become increasingly darker and creeper as the video continues.
Here are a few steps that you can take to help reduce your online risks:
1. Don’t give predators/trolls the information that they need to cause harm to you and your friends and family.
2. Talk to your friends and family and ask them to not share your updates.
3. Do not tag others in what you post and ask them to not tag or even identify you in what they post online.
4. Practice better password security (always a good idea!)
5. Create Google Alerts to help keep you informed about what is being said about your family online.
6. If in doubt of someone’s identify at all, do not reply/respond to comments to people.
If the worst case scenario comes true, there are steps that you can take to virtually eliminate yourself from the cyber world. It would not be my choice, as I’d want to stay aware of what’s happening, but if you decide that leaving the cyber world is the best option, read this article by Gizmodo. It includes steps that you can take to erase yourself from the internet. Obviously, I’ve never used the services, but it looks promising.