Social Media Safety Can Impact the Entire Family

How to make safe choices when using social media

Social-MediaIn a word, social media has become mainstream. It has replaced some aspects of human communication. As a consumer, finding out that one of our favorite companies doesn’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account nearly invokes a sense of distrust or portrays the attitude that the company just doesn’t care or want to talk with its customer base. Having a social media presence establishes a sense of intimacy formerly unheard of between a customer and a company. That same instant ability to connect with family, friends and other users is quite powerful — especially during times of crisis.

Whether it’s using Facebook to keep in touch with your parents and friends or Twitter to share information and follow trends, social media use is as mainstream in modern society as using the telephone was in the 20th century. Being social implies being willing to forgo some privacy in order to become more transparent to those you wish to collaborate with.

That’s a great thing as long as you know who is following you or who your friends are. Some might think, “I’ve got nothing to hide, why do I need to check my security settings and make things private?” This is exactly the opening that criminals and foreign enemies will look to exploit. With any tool, there is always a recommended way to use it to decrease the likelihood of getting hurt. As a service member, or a dependent of one, social media if not carefully used can put others in grave danger if seemingly innocent information is shared with the wrong person.


Safety First

During World War II, Operational Security (OPSEC) was taken very seriously. Many posters were created to remind citizens that, “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships” and they shouldn’t talk about being in the know. In recent years those same posters were updated to convey the similar warnings regarding the use of social media. So what are the real hazards with social media?

  • So when was the last time you REALLY looked at the privacy and permission settings in the system? Do you actually know all those followers or friends? If not, be careful what you share.
  • It might be surprising to some but nearly 90% of all organized terrorism on the Internet takes place through social media. It has created a publically accessible, cheap, portable method for recruitment AND creates a quick way to disseminate information to specific recipients using predetermined key phrases.
  • Social media has created a very simple way here is how a very simple way to gather intelligence through scraps of information collected by following unsuspecting service members or their families. Discussing a simple detail such as where a service member is on a training mission or what hotel someone will stay in on returning from deployment may be the missing piece of information that provides a bigger picture for bad people to exploit.

Friends and Family

Sharing updates with friends and family is a great use of social media but its important to be educated on ways to protect yourself. So what are some simple things you can do to make connecting safer? Here are some first steps:

  • Review the privacy settings of your account. Facebook and others are constantly making changes to their system and will by default open your account up, not leave you more restricted. Make sure you review those changes and ensure the information you want to restrict is still private.
  • Clean up your followers list. Over time various followers can creep into your friends list. If you don’t know them in real life, it's probably not a good idea to share personal details with them at all. A regular pruning of your friend garden is a must.
  • When in doubt, don’t share it! If you’re unsure if something is ok to share, odds are it’s probably not. Information that includes locations, times, personnel or hardware are never a good thing. By even projecting to others that you are going on vacation to a specific location isn’t wise. Thieves can target your house. Keep time sensitive and personal information OFFline.

Those are just a few simple first steps that can help you protect yourself. There are many more fantastic resources to assist both service members and their families in protecting themselves using social media. Here are some good starters: 

Staying in touch with loved ones and friends is easy with social media. It creates a dramatic improvement in quality of life for service members and their families during deployments, but be careful what you share and with whom. Sharing too much may create a source of intelligence that others use to exploit. Be safe before you share!


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