Social Networking

What are social networking websites?

Popular social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have seen a rapid increase in users over the past few years. The number of Facebook accounts held in the UK alone has reached over 30 million.

Social networking websites enable a person to have an online ‘profile’, where users can then upload content, such as photos and personal information, which can then be viewed by others within their ‘network’ of friends.

What are social media websites?

Social media websites such as YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, focus more on the sharing of media (videos, photos etc.) to a mass audience who don’t have to be ‘friends’ to view the content.

The risks

Among friends, social media can be a great and easy way to keep in touch, but there are risks that need to be taken into consideration:

  • The disclosure of private information by either yourself or friends/contacts
  • Bullying
  • Cyber-stalking
  • Online grooming and child abuse.

Profiles

A profile is a page containing the user’s personal information. This usually consists of name, age, location, a personal statement and likes or dislikes. Most sites have space for the user to upload a photo to use as their ‘profile picture’ which can be seen by anyone.

It is important to think about what you are putting on your profile. When adding personal information such as addresses and phone numbers to the internet you have to be sure that it is information you don’t mind sharing with the world. If you think the information is too personal, leave it off.

As a profile contains whatever information the user wishes to put online, they will need to update their privacy settings. It is advised to change your security settings so that only friends or trusted people can view the content of your profile page.

Accepting friend requests

It is very important that users of social media websites understand that people are not always who they say they are. Websites such as Facebook are a network of friends, but they can also allow friend invites from anyone in the world. The photo they display and the information they give about themselves is not always real, and precautions should always be taken.

It is not advisable to share your information or content with people who you do not know. On Facebook you can preview your profile in your security settings; this allows you to see your profile as someone not on your friends list. It is very useful for seeing what information is on display.

Meeting people

Using the internet can be a great way to meet new friends or for dating. However, there are strict rules to be followed when meeting up with the person face-to-face.

This includes simple common sense rules such as to meet in a public place and to tell people where you are going and who you are meeting. For more information see our personal safety page.

Security settings

Since the user of the site is uploading personal photos, information about their location, family, place of work or school, it is very important that they ensure their security settings are set to ‘private’ to co­­­ntrol who has access to this information.

Be careful what you post

You may think that uploading unimportant information such as a favourite sports team, pet’s names or famous personalities wouldn’t have any consequences. This is not the case; many people use this type of information for passwords. Some websites (such as online banking websites), have security questions in case you forget your password; the answers to those questions could be on your social networking page.

For more advice on using social networking sites safely, visit the Get Safe Online website.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For more information on the risks of social networking and advice on how to prevent them, visit the Get Safe Online website.