Social media is a tool that has many advantages, allowing you to directly communicate with a large audience, be a member of an ever-present online community, stay connected with friends and family, develop your interests, meet new people, and explore your own identity and opinions. However, if not used safely and responsibly, social media has many disadvantages—and potential consequences. That’s why you should keep these important rules in mind as you navigate your way through the world of social media.
Make sure your pages represent you
Think of social media as a résumé of your character. Do your pages and profiles showcase your passions, hobbies, and friends? Many peers or those you may network with will use social media to get to know you better, so you want to make sure your presence is an accurate representation of yourself. Don’t be overly fake, lie about yourself, or share things that don’t represent your beliefs—this isn’t a true representation of you.
Never post anything that paints you in a bad light
This is arguably one of the most important social media tips: Don’t post anything that can be used as evidence of unlawful activity. This can lead to you getting in serious trouble with your current or future school and the police. An easy rule is to imagine what a parent, employer, teacher, or grandparent would think about what you’re about to post. Even if you post as “private,” it’s important to remember that nothing is really private in our online world—things can be screenshot and shared in an instant.
Stay in control of your content feed
Unfollow and stay away from other social accounts that spread false news, bully others, post insensitive content, or make you feel bad about yourself. Take charge of the media that you are taking in. You want to use social media to uplift your life, stay informed, and connect with your friends. Only follow accounts that are a safe space and promote your growth as an individual.
Manage your time wisely
The digital world is an easy place to get lost in. Be mindful of how long you’re simply scrolling, especially if you’re not actually getting anything out of it. Set limits on how long you should be on social media apps. Turn off your notifications so it’s less distracting when you have things to get done. Your apps shouldn’t become a roadblock preventing you from completing your daily tasks. This tip is important since it’s so easy to get sucked into TikTok video after TikTok video.
Related: How to Manage Your Time as a Student
Understand the policies
Many schools and workplaces have policies about social media usage. It’s important to understand and adhere to the rules of your institution. Also, be sure to follow the rules of the specific social media platform you’re using. As you’re setting up your account, read through everything (yes, even the fine print) so you understand what rules you need to follow and what you’re consenting to. Go through the privacy settings and change the default setting to something more applicable to you. Also, try to avoid third-party applications. These are often unreliable and are simply used to gather your personal information.
Keep yourself safe from strangers
Be wary and cautious when following or interacting with people you don’t know on the internet. Even if their profile is friendly or they’re a well-known person on the platform, you don’t know who is truly behind the screen. When conversing with “friends” online, don’t expose any private information. Never meet with a new online friend in person; chances are they are not who they say they are. And don’t respond to any of their requests you’re not comfortable with.
Don’t post everything
Do not post about your every move, location, school, town, etc. This information can be used against you. It’s important to maintain a level of privacy between you, your followers, and the digital world. Being careful about what you post and who you interact with keeps you safe from identity theft, privacy infiltration, stalking, and more. The best thing you can do is to keep your accounts private and only let people you know follow you.
Keep your parents in the loop
Although most of us don’t want our parents seeing everything we’re doing, friend your parents on social media. This will hold you accountable for the content you post and interact with. Plus, having an adult perspective is beneficial as you make decisions about your social media usage. Additionally, this will keep you safer as well as strengthen your relationship and trust with your parents.
Social media is an integral part of the average teenager’s daily life. With the endless communication, entertainment, and information these platforms provide, it’s very hard to disconnect from the online world. When using social media, it’s important to remember what Spider-Man taught us: With great power comes great responsibility. With the digital world at your fingertips, it’s vital that you follow these rules to remain safe.
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