It’s amazing how social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—just to name a few of the hundreds of similar sites—have become so much a part of our everyday lives in such a short amount of time.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t taken the time to really get to know these kinds of internet platforms, you could be putting your privacy and your identity at risk.

Here are some important things to remember when it comes to using social media:

  1. Read those terms of service – The terms of service for most websites are so lengthy and full of legalese that the majority of internet users happily check the “I have read and understand” box without actually reading… or understanding. That’s where a lot of the problems come in. One of the first issues that arises from not reading and understanding the terms of service for any website you use is that you can’t complain when the company does something—specifically, when they do something with your information—that you didn’t know they could do. Whether it’s using your purchase history to encourage further sales or posting to Facebook on your behalf, if you gave the site permission by agreeing to the terms of service, you have no legal leg to stand on if you’re unhappy with what they do.
  1. Guard your name – Some sites allow you to use fun monikers as your social media handle, but others require your real first and last name. For the most part, that’s fairly harmless information; a quick search in the phone would tell far more information about you than just your name. But it’s more important than ever that you realize how much your name really says about you. First, if you’re one of the millions of married women who use their maiden names and their married names online—a tactic that helps old friends and acquaintances locate you—you have to remember that you’re sharing more than just your own data. You’re potentially giving away one of the most common security questions that financial accounts ask for, only you’re doing it to your children’s future accounts.
  1. Avoid the overshare – It’s absolutely crucial that you realize the danger of oversharing. Whether it’s posting too much identifying information about your kids, your job, your address, or other identifying information, or giving strangers an up-close look at your location or photographs, oversharing online is a rampant problem that can easily lead to identity theft… or worse. If you do choose to post information online, make sure that you have the highest privacy settings enabled on your account. If you’re sharing a photograph that you took with your smartphone or tablet, make sure the location settings are turned off so that the photo isn’t tagged with the GPS coordinates to where you took it.

The most important thing to remember about anything you post online is that it is no longer yours and no longer private. Though your privacy settings protect your posts one day, the social platform can change those settings and your posts are now public. Therefore it is a good idea not to post anything you don’t want public on social media. Keep that in mind the next time you share something online.