There’s a lot of information about keeping yourself and your kids safe online, specifically on social media. But too often, when users think of social media, they’re really thinking of the ramifications of one platform like Facebook over the dozens of other popular social sharing tools.
Facebook is really useful and a lot of fun, but the long-form format, the ability to post photos and videos, and the option to share content that other people have posted means it gets a lot of attention from privacy and identity theft experts. It’s all too easy to forget that your activity on platforms like Twitter can get you in just as much trouble with a cyber criminal.
Twitter functions almost in exactly the opposite way Facebook does. Where the purpose of Facebook is to make joint, reciprocated connections, with Twitter you simply have followers and it’s pretty difficult to keep these followers from seeing what you post. When you post a “tweet,” your followers (many of whom you may not know and might never engage with) can read it, share it, and respond to it, but you may not even be connected and may never know they even read it. While you can still post pictures or videos on Twitter, the words you write are limited to 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation. That means it can be hard to get your point across, and very easy to offend someone who then decides to go on the attack.
That’s why there are some special considerations you should make when using a limited platform like Twitter:
First, set those privacy controls to the highest level you can in your profile. And when you’re setting up your account and profile, make sure you’re only including information that you have to have in order to use the platform in the way that suits you. Unless you’re using Twitter for your business, no one needs to know your physical location; no one ever needs to know how many children you have, or their ages.
Next, there’s never a reason to share your address, your phone number, or even your email address in a public tweet. Twitter has a direct message feature for speaking only to another Twitter user, and a DM is the place to share sensitive contact info. Just remember that even in a direct message you may not want to share contact info. After all, you cannot really know who “JingleBellFan12” really is, and Twitter does not require your account to use your real name or details like Facebook does.
Finally, choose your words wisely. With such a limited format, it’s easy to say something you didn’t mean, initiate an argument, or retweet someone else’s offensive tweet. A lot of flame wars on social media start with an incorrect interpretation of someone else’s poorly chosen words. This kind of online arguing can lead to trolling behaviors, doxxing, and an all-out campaign to get you, fueled by anger, hurt pride, and even bullying. There’s never a good reason to keep an argument going on social media, especially with a complete stranger.