TMI: When Oversharing Online Becomes a Problem

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From what they are eating to where they are going, young people everywhere are sharing everything they do online. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter make it possible for people to instantly connect – and sometimes, unknowingly to them, become easy targets for identification theft, bullying or home burglary. Does it seem like a stretch? It’s not. People are leaving a trail online of their personal information and whereabouts, two things that leave them vulnerable – especially when traveling. You may have your sharing under control this holiday season, but do your children? In this always-on digital society, here are some risks of and remedies to cure social media oversharing.

Turn off Most Location-Based Apps

Sharing where you are, not just what you are doing, is becoming a trend among social media sharers. While the excitement of being in Hawaii or watching your favorite sports team in person might lead you to want to share, do it after you arrive back home. Sharing your coordinates makes online stalking incredibly easy. If you and your family are traveling this holiday, keep your kids from posting where they are going or how long you’ll be gone. Home burglary is consistently higher during the holiday season, and in large metros such as Cleveland, Oakland and Dallas, home security goes significantly down when homes are left empty. Don’t let strangers know where you are or how long you’ll be gone by turning off unnecessary location-based apps.

Share With Real Friends

Even if your profile isn’t public, how well do you know all of your online friends? What about your kids? It is common to reconnect with old friends, add new people you just met, and lose track of everyone you’ve given permission to see what you post. Regularly review who has access to your page and determine if it is safe for them to know so much about you. It’s natural to want to vent about a stressful situation or share exciting news with a friend, but think twice before posting. Once published, words are nearly impossible to stop from quickly spreading throughout the digital world. If it’s not something you would say out loud in a crowded room of your online friends, it’s not something you should say online to the same people. Text, call or send a private message instead.

There’s No Such Thing as Privacy

There’s a shred of anonymity online, but not much. Even if you aren’t posting under your name or email address, what you publish can still be traced back to you. In July, an anonymous photo was uploaded onto obscure image-sharing site 4chan.org. The photo was of a Burger King employee’s feet standing on two containers of lettuce with the statement, “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King,” according to Business2community.com. While the employee thought his rebellious act was untraceable, he didn’t realize that he had left Exif (exchangeable image file format) data attached to his data. Within 10 minutes of posting, another user pinpointed the data to Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Minutes later the Burger King branch was located and the rest is history. Posting online isn’t private. Help your kids realize what they post now can effect them in the future – especially when applying for jobs or college – as well as now.

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