David Earl Johnson, LICSW

5 minute read

We’ve all heard about viruses and websites that steal our sensitive private information. Cyberstalking has also become a problem on social media sites. Blogs, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, in particular, are prone to this sort of abuse.

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But even cellphone texting can be a problem since you can forward others details where ever you want. Although there are mixed reviews of just how much of a risk there is, there is agreement there is a risk. Parents should certainly provide [supervision for their kids][1] with the youngest getting the most. [John Dvorak][2], a columnist at MarketWatch.com recently posted an interesting article. > “If I were a professional thief, the first thing I would do is get a computer, find the folks out there who document everything they do on social-networking sites and go rob them.” There are a couple of risk that make this particular crime possible. If you tell the world what you are doing and where you are going, you are telling any criminal that might be listening when you’ve vacated your house. You may have already listed items in your house that might be particularly desirable by the thief, like the computer, PS3, perhaps even the type of car you have in the driveway. Here are some rules for social media everyone should know about and practice regularly. 1. There is really only one reason to use your real name on the internet: to promote yourself or your business. Do a regular thorough search using Google of your full name, your address, and other identifying data and make sure all that you find is removed. Make sure your phone number and address are unlisted and there is no other way to find where you live. If you do promote yourself, use an email address as your contact point. To prevent misuse, change the @ sign to (at) or -at- to keep the robots from snapping up your email for spam lists. Or, better yet, use a virtual business card that has a contact form like [card.ly][3]. Then no one gets your email address until you decide. 2, Be careful about what you put on your site, like where you are, who is home, and when you go to work or go on vacation. Acquaintances who know your nick name on the internet might decide to break into your house while you are gone or share with others who you really are. Remember, personal information becomes permanently available to whomever wants it once you post it. Employers and college admission officers are regularly searching the internet for applicant’s antics. Remember if you are protecting your identity in Twitter and refer to your Facebook site that identifies you, you’ve only delayed someone who might want to hurt you. If you post your picture on the internet, that could identify you to someone you don’t want to know or could be used in a faked porn picture. 3. If you say something cruel to someone, remember that it’s recorded forever for anyone who looks. Not only have you hurt another person, you have hurt yourself and your reputation forever. Your repeated insults on the internet could be turned against you and used as evidence to charge you with cyberstalking or cyberbullying and turned into civil or criminal charges. 4. Never give out personal information that could identify you. This includes: \* full name \* home address \* phone number \* Social Security number \* passwords \* names of family members * credit card numbers 5. Keep online friendships in the virtual world. Meeting online friends carries more risks than other types of friendships because it’s easy for people to pretend to be something they’re not when you can’t see them or talk in person. Even if you “feel” you know someone, you really can’t know them as well as if you had known them face to face. Some people think they have fallen in “love” with an online friend. The only thing you can fall in love with online is your fantasy of who the other person might be. The non-verbal and contextual clues about another person is sometimes the only thing that can keep us safe in a face to face relationship. Our intuitions about trust are truly potential lifesavers. What we know about another persons history from our own and others experiences fill in the picture. These aids to judgment either don’t exist online or are clouded by an ‘unseen’ or undocumented history. If you must meet someone you know from on line, do so as if you are meeting someone for the first time, because you are. Meet only in public preferably with someone else. And don’t give out personal information like you would with someone you just met. Let me know if I missed anything. I’ll update as needed.
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