Written by Jessa Lewis

In this day and age of the internet, social media and smart phones, it can be a tricky line to balance being present in online businesses and, in a position to communicate online with others whilst also considering cyber safety. It’s also too simplistic to just say - don’t go online, show up less online or tell your kids to be ‘safe online’.

From a business perspective:

  • There are over 2.2 billion users on Facebook, over 1 billion users on Instagram and over 1.9 billion users on YouTube.
  • One of the top 10 reasons people use social media these days is to shop, look for products or check out businesses.
  • Online marketing is often cheaper than traditional marketing and more easily trackable.
  • And, it is often much easier to connect with your audience and extend the reach of your product and message online than it is offline.

For these reasons and more, if you have an online business, you may want to spend additional time online and show up more despite any suggestions to the contrary.

As a general rule, society favors convenience over privacy therefore companies and individuals are using the internet more than ever before. It is also becoming increasing difficult to make certain purchases, use services and get in touch with others - without using online services.

When we consider online use for children:

  • Most schools now request that laptops be made available to children
  • Even though most social media platforms have minimum age requirements, children can still join the platforms prior to this if the submit an incorrect date of birth
  • The availability of smartphones means sometimes unlimited access to the internet and the option to download apps

So, without pressing the DELETE button on the internet altogether - what can we do to navigate things safely and take advantage of the internet?

1. Your location:

Most social media platforms these days remove the geo-tagging from images that are uploaded but, if you are uploading images to a website or blog that might be coded with location and (for example) pin point your home address, make sure the location tag is removed from the meta data. To check what’s listed, go to your photo library on the original device and look for ‘Info’.

If you are wary of people finding you in cafes or out and about, don’t check-in or use location stickers until after you have left. Or use a broader check-in/location such as the suburb rather than the cafe.

If you’re going away on holidays and are leaving your home unattended, be cautious when announcing that publicly on social media. You can choose to change your privacy settings at that point or wait until you are home before making the announcements or, mention at the same time that you have a house sitter.

2. Your personal information:

Even though most platforms offer a range of privacy settings, people can still unknowingly or otherwise leave little to the imagination. So, check your privacy settings - you can often toggle better private and public or just sharing with your friends vs sharing with the public. Know what you’re sharing and with whom. You can generally check this info in your platform account settings or with icons that are displayed on the right-hand side of posts.

3. Security breaches:

We are seeing an increase in security breaches with online platforms and services that hold a staggering amount of personal information on their users - from Facebook to Playstation to MyHeritage to Quora and more. There are also instances where information has been sent incorrectly by services such as Google Home or Alexa. Some simple ways to help deal with this are:

  • Have separate passwords for all your different apps/online services
  • Choose multiple security options such as adding your mobile number for additional verification purposes (this helps prevent hackers from changing your details and stealing your different online platform accounts if they do gain access)
  • Keep your apps updated as updates often contain bug/security fixes
  • And, if a site looks dodgy, if it doesn’t have a certificate, if your intuition tells you something is off - don’t give your info.

4. Family:

When it comes to children and the internet there are a million different ideas of how to keep safe. However, communication may be your best form of defense. Talk about the dangers of being too transparent online. Talk about how and what might be on the other side of the screen. Be open and approachable and aware.

You may also consider installing restrictions with which sites they can access both on computers, phones and smart TVs. And set up their phones under your own Android or Apple accounts so that you know which apps are being installed. Then you’ll have the opportunity to read up on them and open a dialogue with your child about what they’re using the app for.

Fair warning though: if your children have their phones/laptops etc. linked to your Android or Apple accounts unfortunately this can sometimes result in paid apps being downloaded and debited from your linked account. Considering this, it’s a great idea to have a fingerprint password for downloads rather than a digit password or no password.

In the end, there are many things that can be flagged with respect to safety using the internet or associated services but there are also so many benefits to having these options in the first place. Those of us with access are so blessed and advantaged comparatively with those in third worlds that don’t and are suffering without a voice.

We are able to start online businesses, market our products and sell them with ease from the comfort of our homes. We are able to communicate with the press/media and people from all over the world in but a second. We are able to broadcast our own media, opinions and insights. We are able to start movements and make change. There is a lot to be thankful for with respect to this.

We have the ability to harness the power of the internet and it does add so much simplicity to aspects of our lives – this at least for now appears to outweigh most of the risks.

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