4 steps to be more private online

Be it our own behaviour or the settings we use, whether we realise it or not we can often over-share online. Dr David R Brake explains how to protect yourself, and your children, and set healthy boundaries for your digital world


4 steps to be more private online

If the thought of inadvertent over-sharing of your personal life online worries you, what can you do? Of course you can always opt out of participation, partially or completely, but this does not provide absolute protection – things you say and do may well turn up on social media if your friends and family share them.

Moreover, for all of the risks of ‘over-sharing’ social media services are popular for good reason – these platforms are great for community and communication. The key is to be as aware as you can be of who might be seeing what you are posting and how what you say might be interpreted.

1. Check your privacy settings thoroughly now, and when social media companies alert you to changes in their privacy settings, check to see what the indications are for your own. Remove ‘friends’ whose reaction to things you say might be negative or reduce their access to what you say.

2. Be careful about writing things that are sarcastic or ironic – if you are not careful, people who don’t know you well may take what you have said seriously.

3. A good rule of thumb is don't write anything online that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the local paper or that would bother you if your partner/parent/child or boss found out about.

4. If you have children of an age to participate in social media (supposedly 13, although in fact many children join earlier) trying to block them from doing so is probably counter-productive. The social pressure to participate may be overwhelming and it’s better that they learn early how to negotiate these issues. Rather than monitoring their use surreptitiously, touch base with your kids every so often and talk with them about what it is that they are sharing. Encourage them to talk to you about the decisions they make so that when problems arise they will not be afraid to tell you about them.

Sharing Our Lives Online: Risks And Exposure In Social Media by Dr David Brake (Palgrave, £16.99) is out now

Photograph: plainpicture/Caiaimages

More inspiration:

Read Sex, lies and social media by David Head on LifeLabs


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