Instagram, Facebook, and other social media apps are a fantastic way to keep in touch with loved ones at home and friends and neighbors from previous duty stations. I love getting the chance to see my friends’ babies turn into kids and celebrate their latest successes in spelling bees and on the basketball courts.
But, all of that behind the scenes access to my friend’s lives, and the up-to-the-minute connection comes with risks. Recent news stories about military spouses being harassed on social media following recent deployments have made me take a step back and re-evaluate how I use social media. It’s a good idea for all military families to take a moment to pause and make sure you are taking precautions to keep your family safe.
The good news is, there are plenty of easy ways to keep your personal information safe and secure on social media.
Keep your personal information personal
Social media sites ask for a lot of information when you set up your account, but remember, you aren’t required to share it all. Keep things like your phone number, personal email, and address off your accounts if possible. If you absolutely are required to enter something, consider using a free google voice number or an alternate email account, and always set this information to private.
Check your privacy settings regularly
Maybe you locked down your Facebook or Instagram account a few months ago but anytime there is an update to one of your apps there is the possibility that your privacy settings get changed. Get in the habit of checking those settings often so you can make sure you are only sharing the information you want to share. Check your Facebook account in public mode to ensure the photos that people can see do not identify your family as military-connected.
Turn off location settings
Most social media platforms default to tracking and sharing your location every time you post. In addition to making yourself vulnerable by allowing people to track your every move, it also gives people the ability to know when you are away from home, possibly for an extended amount of time. If you don’t want to tell everyone where you are going to be all the time, don’t let your social media account do it on your behalf.
Make sure you know your friends/followers
Don’t blindly accept every friend or follower request you get. Many scammers/hackers use social media as in to get to your personal information. If you are trying to build your following on a platform, consider setting up a “work” account or utilize privacy features that allow you to choose who sees what content to keep your private life private.
I know, I know. You hear it all the time but I am going to say it again – don’t post anything about dates, locations or personal information about your service member on social media. There are plenty of great resources online that can explain OPSEC in detail but my rule of thumb has always been “When in doubt, leave it out.”
There is no question that social media is a great tool for military families to help us stay connected with one another and to share resources and support even when you are away from the base community. As with most things military life related, it just requires a little thought and planning to make sure we are getting the most value out of the tools available to us. Being smart about your social media security means we can focus on more important things – like posting more pictures of your adorable new puppy.
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