The number of social networking sites is ever growing. Where once our only choice seemed to be Usenet or Friendster (remember those?), we now have a dizzying array from which to choose: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, Digg, Reddit, Google+, Instagram... the list goes on, and changes almost daily!
Social networking sites can be a great way to connect with friends. They've even changed in purpose and scope. Where once they were mainly for connecting with fellow students, family, or friends, today using social networking sites might even be part of your job: providing or gathering information, developing contacts, identifying resources, marketing or selling products. This proliferation of social networking sites into the mainstream of our culture demands - now more than ever - that the safety concerns you might have had in the past still apply.
Stay safe when engaging in social networking, whether for personal or professional use.
Here are some tips to help you keep safety in mind:
- Manage your privacy settings. Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on your social networking sites. They help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a positive way. You'll find some information about Facebook privacy settings at the bottom of this Web page.
- Remember: once posted, always posted. Protect your reputation on social networks. What you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn't want your parents or future employers to see. Recent research found that 70% of job recruiters rejected candidates based on information they found online.
- Build a positive online reputation. Recent research also found that recruiters respond to a strong, positive personal brand online. So demonstrate your mastery of the environment and showcase your talents.
- Keep personal info personal. Be careful how much personal info you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes such as stalking.
- Protect your computer. Security start with protecting your computer. Install Antivirus (Symantec Endpoint Protection), available at no cost from the Software Download Service at My Pitt (my.pitt.edu). Keep your operating system, Web browser, and other software current. You can use the Pitt Software Update Service to automatically download the latest security updates for Windows.
- Know what action to take. If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them, and report them to the site administrator.
- Use strong passwords. Make sure that your password is at least eight characters long and consists of some combination of letters, numbers, and special characters (for example, +, @, #, or $).
- Be cautious on social networking sites. Even links that look they come from friends can sometimes contain harmful software or be part of a phishing attack. If you are at all suspicious, don't click it. Contact your friend to verify the validity of the link first.
In addition to making yourself aware of a site's terms and conditions, it is always important to learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They help you control who sees what you post. For example, you can learn more about Facebook's privacy settings by visiting the Facebook Help Center (https://www.facebook.com/help/) and clicking the Privacy link.