Facebook, Twitter posts can come back to haunt you

OK, I admit I’m a day late in posting something about Halloween, but it’s an important message: What you say and do on social networks can come back to haunt you. And getting you to think before you post, act, respond and click online is what CyberSavvyMom is all about.

Let’s start today with takethislollipop.com.  The site offers you a chance to link with your Facebook account and then watch as the application plays out a scene, using your Facebook photos and other information, of a dirty-fingernailed creep checking you out.  It ends with him getting information on where you live and then driving in a car somewhere, presumably to find you and do unspeakable things. It’s full-on freaky.

People use Facebook and Twitter with varying levels of involvement. I myself am on Facebook several times a day and I regularly post photos and status updates about my life and my family.  But of the several hundred friends I have on there, I observe use that starts at frequent and regular, like my own, to barely-ever-log-on types who maintain an account but almost never go on and never post a thing.

Which ever way you are going to engage on Facebook, the most important thing to keep in mind is to make sure what you are putting out there are photos, statements, links, that you would be comfortable with everyone seeing, whether they are friends, co-workers, family members – and even strangers.  Because even if you intend for what you post to be seen by people in your network only, or even just by certain people within your network, there is a saying that your security is only as good as your friend’s security.  Meaning, of course, if your friend’s profile is open to compromise, so is yours. And that means what you considered to be private, well, no longer is.

Facebook profiles get hacked all the time. Friends share things you have posted without your consent. You can’t ever assume what you are posting won’t be seen by eyes you never intended to see your posts, because privacy is virtually non-existent if you are using Facebook or Twitter. This message is particularly important for teens and twenty-somethings who are still new to social networks and may post things that could later serve as a source of embarrassment or, even a reason for a potential employer to choose not to hire them.  These things can and do happen.

Back to takethislollipop. Again, the message is clear: If you put something out on a social network, you should expect it will be seen by people you may not have intended it for. Frankly, I tend to be less concerned about my profile being used by some crazy person to stalk or hurt me and my family. I believe if that danger exists, it is not my pictures on Facebook that is going to be the reason someone wants to hurt me. Some may argue that putting it out there opens the door to more crazy lunatics being able to gawk at our stuff. Maybe. But I know the value and fun I get from communicating with others on social networks is, for me, something I am not going to give up for a scenario that is simply a “what if.”

What I do know is that I am never going to post anything on my social networks that I wouldn’t be comfortable with the entire world seeing. I won’t make disparaging remarks about someone I know personally who may have irked me that day. I won’t post, won’t allow others to post, pictures of me now, or in my younger days, doing things that look like its in bad taste (IE: taking an alcohol shot, dancing on a table). Not that I really live the kind of lifestyle that lends itself to risque behavior, but if I did, you can be sure I wouldn’t be posting snapshots of it – and I would insist people in my network not post pics of me I didn’t approve of either. You should do the same.

Again, these are lessons younger internet users often have to learn the hard way.  As parents, it’s our job to help them see the way.  Show them takethislollipop.com (I’d recommend to kids age 13 and over. It is not a site for younger children as it could scare them). It could serve as a great jumping off point to get the discussion going about what we post online, and to think before we click.

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