Tips for Facebook safety

Liesl Muller, a social media consultant, offers the following advice about safe social media use:

 General tips

  • It is very important to keep your passwords safe and not to share them with anyone. On shared computers, make sure that you log out every time you’re finished on Facebook. A good password is normally around 8 characters, and should contain a number and one special character. Don’t use the same password for all your social media accounts.
  • Don’t befriend just anyone. A rule of thumb is to only befriend people you know in real life. Use Facebook as an extension of your existing circle of friends.
  • What you share electronically stays in cyberspace forever, therefore don’t share or post anything you don’t feel comfortable with. Ask yourself: will you be comfortable if your headmaster, parents or a potential employer reads it?
  • You can now ask to pre-approve or review photographs or posts you are tagged in (Privacy settings – Timeline and Tagging).
  • Be considerate of your friends’ privacy as well – don’t post anything about them or their photographs without asking them if they are comfortable with the post. Photographs that could potentially cause embarrassment should definitely not be posted. Be careful of how you and your friends portray yourselves – sexy and drunken photographs should not be on Facebook.
  • Don’t post anything such as addresses or cell numbers that make you easy to find.

 Privacy settings

Facebook’s privacy settings are your friends, get to know them! There is a lot of control over what and how you share your information, posts and photographs. You can tailor-make your privacy settings for each element (this is called granular privacy settings).

You can now choose your privacy settings on every update you make or photograph you post.  In most cases “Friends only” is the safest option.

Games and advertisements

  • Be careful of Facebook applications, games, and social plug ins like Spotify, Instagram and Viddy. Permission is often given to these applications to access your data and even post to your wall. Remove applications you don’t use anymore.
  • The same applies to Facebook advertisements. You can again choose not to have your name used for social advertisements. Have you noticed on the advertisements it would sometimes say “Mary Cummings likes this”? This is where they used the permission Mary gave originally to use her name to endorse a product or service. You can change this by clicking on your “Account” button again, going to Facebook ads, and removing the permission to use your data. 

 Facebook and cyberbullying

  • You can block other users from seeing your posts and photographs. When you block someone, they will not know that they have been blocked, but they will not be able to find your Timeline, view it, or post to it. This is a good technique to get rid of people who post unpleasant comments to your Timeline or messages.

You can complain to Facebook if you are the victim of cyberbullying, or in cases of inappropriate posts. They will investigate all complaints.

Tips for parents:

  • Talk to your children about social media use and how to stay safe online. If you haven’t seen it yet, ask to see their profile page the following day. Your child will have the opportunity to remove anything incriminating that he or she is not comfortable sharing with you (and learn a valuable lesson about being careful about what they post in the process).
  • Friend your teens or children if you haven’t already. I made it a proviso to my children even having Facebook accounts. It’s a good way to keep an eye on their Facebook activity without being intrusive. However, once they’ve friended you, be a good friend – don’t friend their friends, don’t cover their pages with messages. Model good online behaviour. What and how you choose to share information will be an example – good or bad!

Good online resource

Visit Wired Safety, a good website for safety issues

A guide to Facebook security for teens and adults is available and can be downloaded here:





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