Social networks can be a positive part of modern life. We can connect with family members who live far way, keep in touch with old friends, and stay up to date on news and community events. But those same social networks can become an obsession, can eat up too much of our time, make us feel inferior to online “friends,” and leave us vulnerable to scammers, thieves, and stalkers.

DO

  • Connect with family and friends around the world.
  • Find new friends and communities; network with others who share similar interests or hobbies.
  • Support worthy causes; raise awareness on important issues.
  • Request or offer emotional support during difficult times.
  • Share your creativity and humor with others.
  • Find verified sources of information on topics that interest you.
  • Check the privacy settings on any app or social media site you use.
  • Be wary of public Wi-Fi because your online activity can be intercepted by others.
  • Stick to secure, HTTPS websites, particularly if you are bank-ing or shopping. Pay close attention to URL addresses when browsing.
  • Do set up an app that tracks the time you spend online and on specific apps to monitor your usage.

DON’T

  • Don’t assume anything you post will remain private.
  • Don’t share information about work travel or vacation because it could leave you vulnerable to burglars.
  • Don’t geotag your photos. GPS coordinates are embedded into photos taken with a smart phone. Turn this feature off in your camera app to guard your privacy.
  • Don’t breach operational security by sharing details about a spouse’s deployment or other military affairs.
  • Don’t take quizzes or viral surveys that ask you to provide personal information (e.g., mother’s maiden name, first pet’s name, etc.) because scammers use them to steal identities.
  • Don’t post personal information online (e.g., birthdate, address, phone numbers, etc.).
  • Don’t accept friend requests from strangers. They could be phony accounts created by scammers.
  • Don’t compare your life to what you see others post on social media. Most people only share a highlight reel, not the struggles and challenges they face.

ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR PARENTS ON KEEPING KIDS SAFE ONLINE

The DOs and DON’Ts above can apply to children as well, but here are some additional pointers for parents:

  • Teach your kids to be nice—in life and online. Tell your kids you expect them to treat others with respect and to never post messages meant to hurt, shame, humiliate, or bully someone. Ask them to always tell you about any hurtful messages that others post about them or people they know.
  • Encourage them to consider WWGS (What Would Grandma Say?) before sharing anything online. Teach kids not to share anything that they wouldn't want their teachers, college admissions officers, future bosses — and yes, grandma — to see.
  • Tell them NEVER to share their passwords with anyone—even a close friend or boyfriend/girlfriend. If the relationship sours, the person entrusted with the passwords could share embarrassing information to hurt your child.
  • Make it absolutely clear that they NEVER should send or share explicit or risqué photos of themselves or others with anyone. Not only could those photos be used to embarrass someone, but the distribution also could be against the law.
  • They should never “friend” strangers. Online predators often approach children on social media and online games.
  • Consider parental control apps to limit your child’s data usage, or restrict their phone use to certain times of the day.

This article is part of a year-long effort to build skills, increase resiliency, and show what right looks like. To view other prevention tools and tips, read the Prevention in Action monthly newsletter.