Staying safe on social media

Posted 2 months ago

Follow these simple steps

Blog originating from Health Assured.

Social media has become rooted in everyday life for many. To the extent that some are experiencing cripplingly poor mental health as a side effect, such as addiction and anxiety.

Similarly, social media has become a necessity to many students.

It creates equal opportunities for all to connect, offers a wide range of information from the touch of a button, provides a platform for self-expression, and gives users the ability to share life experiences.

For students, it can be a necessary and invaluable tool in finding information to support educational needs, creating better connections between tutors, lecturers, and students, and a great way to find friends and like-minded people to network.

For students who are no longer living at home, social media can provide an opportunity to easily connect with old-school friends and family without having to take long expensive journeys, and the best part is that most of it is completely free!

What are the risks of social media?

Social media is arguably one of the best tools for connectivity and sharing information online. However, like most things, there is a darker side that every student should be aware of.

With the anonymity that the online space permits, social media has become a hotbed for cyberbullying. The rise of internet ‘trolls’ has highlighted the accessibility and ease of cyberbullying someone from behind the computer screen, taking away all risks of remorse or accountability for the attacker.

Social media is also known to cause a lot of safety risks, with more hackers gaining valuable and personal information from users and using them for malicious intent, such as bank details and passwords. This can lead to identity theft, loss of substantial money, and it may even affect your physical safety.

If social media is used excessively, we can expect to see a decline in our mental health and an increase of mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression. On top of all this, social media can intensify negative feelings, such as fear of missing out, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness and addiction.

How can students stay safer on social media?

1. Pause before you post

Oversharing online can attract negative feedback so it is always best to be mindful before you post.

When posting, you can control what you post but you cannot control what others post, so consider how this feedback might affect your mental health before you hit send or post. If you believe negative feedback will affect your mental health after you post, it is always best to not post at all.

2. Don’t publish personal information

It may seem obvious but publishing personal information on social media platforms is certain to risk your security. Be extremely careful of what personal information you publish online, this includes addresses, location, phone numbers, etc.

Make sure only trusted individuals have your location. You may also want to switch off your geolocation, this way you completely relinquish the risk of someone who poses a threat knowing your location.

3. Set strong passwords

Creating strong passwords is the main barrier from hackers gaining access to your accounts. Hackers will often use ‘brute force attacks’ to crack simple passwords and gain access to your social medias. Make sure your password is complex enough for it not to be cracked by a potential hacker or threat. It is always a good idea to change your passwords frequently and create different passwords for different platforms.

Here are some ways in which to create a safe password:

  • Use a mix of characters
  • Use a password longer than 12 characters long
  • Don’t reuse passwords
  • Use a password manager
  • Don’t share your passwords- regardless of who they are

4. Be selective with friend requests

Friend requests can be exciting with the prospect of a new connection. Yet, sometimes some friend requests may not be as friendly as you first thought.

If you don’t know the person trying to add you, decline their request. It could be a hacker trying to acquire personal information or a cyberbully looking for its next victim.

If the ‘friend’ becomes a problem, the best thing to do is block and report them so they can no longer reach you.

5. Think before you click

Hackers use a multitude of ways to get your personal information and access your social media profiles. They will often use techniques, such as phishing, credential stuffing, or brute force attacks.

It is always good to watch out for unsolicited messages as hackers use social media for ‘phishing’ scams. Phishing scams tricks users to click or download a virus onto a computer or phone.

It is especially important to look out for those messages asking you to click a specific link or download something. Often, these links or downloads are viruses to collect personal information, like bank details or passwords.

6. Take social media breaks

Detoxing and taking regular breaks from social media can significantly support mental health. It is a great way to give yourself some much-needed headspace and often offsets negative concerns associated with too much social media usage, such as FOMO, loneliness, and inadequacy.

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