Fact – your social media posts may affect your career, or worse case, your identity!
New research from the world’s largest dedicated cybersecurity firm, McAfee, has revealed that two thirds (67%) of Aussies are embarrassed by the content that appears on their social media profiles. Yikes! And just to make the picture even more complicated, 34% of Aussies admit to never increasing the privacy on their accounts from the default privacy settings despite knowing how to.
So, next time these Aussies apply for a job and the Human Resources Manager decides to ‘check them out online’, you can guess what the likely outcome will be…
Proactively Managing Social Media Accounts Is Critical For Professional Reputation
For many Aussies, social media accounts operate as a memory timeline of their social lives. Whether they are celebrating a birthday, attending a party or just ‘letting their hair down’ – many people will document their activities for all to see through a collection of sometimes ‘colourful’ photos and videos. But sharing ‘good times’ can become a very big problem when social media accounts are not proactively managed. Ensuring your accounts are set to the tightest privacy settings possible and curating them regularly for relevance and suitability is essential if you want to keep your digital reputation in-tact. However, it appears that a large proportion of Aussies are not taking these simple steps.
McAfee’s research shows that 28% of Aussies admit to either never or not being able to recall the last time they checked their social media timeline. 66% acknowledge that they have at least one inactive social media account. 40% admit that they’ve not even thought about deleting inactive accounts or giving them a clear-out and concerningly, 11% don’t know how to adjust their privacy settings! So, I have no doubt that some of the Aussies that fall into these groups would have NOT come up trumps when they were ‘checked out online’ by either their current or future Human Resources Managers!!
What Social Media Posts Are Aussies Most Embarrassed By?
As part of the research study, Aussies were asked to nominate the social media posts that they have been most embarrassed by. Here are the top 10:
- Drunken behaviour
- Comment that can be perceived as offensive
- Wearing an embarrassing outfit
- Wardrobe malfunction
- In their underwear
- Throwing up
- Kissing someone they shouldn’t have been
- Sleeping somewhere they shouldn’t
- Exposing themselves on purpose
Cybercriminals Love Online Sharers
As well as the potential to hurt career prospects, relaxed attitudes to social media could be leaving the door open for cybercriminals. If you are posting about recent purchases, your upcoming holidays and ‘checking-in’ at your current location then you are making it very easy for cybercriminals to put together a picture of you and possibly steal your identity. And having none or even default privacy settings in place effectively means you are handing this information to cybercriminals on a platter!!
Considering how much personal information and images most social media accounts hold, it’s concerning that 16 per cent of Aussies interviewed admitted that they don’t know how to close down their inactive social media accounts and a third (34%) don’t know the passwords or no longer have access to the email addresses they used to set them up – effectively locking them out!
What Can We Do To Protect Ourselves?
The good news is that there are things we can do TODAY to improve our social media hygiene and reduce the risk of our online information getting into the wrong hands. Here are my top tips:
- Clean-up your digital past. Sift through your old and neglected social media accounts. If you are not using them – delete the account. Then take some time to audit your active accounts. Delete any unwanted tags, photos, comments and posts so they don’t come back to haunt your personal or professional life.
- Lockdown privacy and security settings. Leaving your social media profiles on the ‘public’ setting means anyone who has access to the internet can view your posts and photos whether you want them to or not. While you should treat anything you post online as public, turning your profiles to private will give you more control over who can see your content and what people can tag you in.
- Never reuse passwords. Use unique passwords with a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols for each one of your accounts, even if you don’t think the account holds a lot of personal information. If managing all your passwords seems like a daunting task, look for security software that includes a password manager.
- Avoid Sharing VERY Personal Information Online. The ever-growing body of information you share online could possibly be used by cybercriminals to steal your identity. The more you share, the greater the risk. Avoid using your full name, date of birth, current employer, names of your family members, your home address even the names of your pets online – as you could be playing straight into the hands of identity thieves and hackers.
- Think before you post. Think twice about each post you make. Will it have a negative impact on you or someone you know now or possibly in the future? Does it give away personal information that someone could use against you? Taking a moment to think through the potential consequences BEFORE you post is the best way to avoid serious regrets in the future.
- Employ extra protection across all your devices. Threats such as viruses, identity theft, privacy breaches, and malware can all reach you through your social media. Install comprehensive security software to protect you from these nasties.
If you think you (or one of your kids) might just identify with the above ‘relaxed yet risky’ approach to managing your social media, then it’s time to act. Finding a job is hard enough in our crowded job market without being limited by photos of your latest social gathering! And no-one wants to be the victim of identity theft which could possibly affect your financial reputation for the rest of your life! So, make yourself a cuppa and get to work cleaning up your digital life! It’s so worth it!!
With winter almost gone, now is the perfect time to start planning your annual spring clean. When we think about our yearly sort out, most of us think about decluttering our chaotic linen cupboards or the wardrobes that we can’t close. But if you want to minimise the opportunities for a hacker to get their hands on your private online information then a clean-up of your digital house (aka your online life) is absolutely essential.
Not Glamourous but Necessary
I totally accept that cleaning up your online life isn’t exciting but let me assure you it is a must if you want to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Think about how much digital clutter we have accumulated over the years? Many of us have multiple social media, messaging and email accounts. And don’t forget about all the online newsletters and ‘accounts’ we have signed up for with stores and online sites? Then there are the apps and programs we no longer use.
Well, all of this can be a liability. Holding onto accounts and files you don’t need exposes you to all sorts of risks. Your devices could be stolen or hacked or, a data breach could mean that your private details are exposed quite possibly on the Dark Web. In short, the less information that there is about you online, the better off you are.
Digital clutter can be distracting, exhausting to manage and most importantly, detrimental to your online safety. A thorough digital spring clean will help to protect your important, online personal information from cybercriminals.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a serious crime that can have devastating consequences for its victims. It occurs when a person’s personal information is stolen to be used primarily for financial gain. A detailed set of personal details is often all a hacker needs to access bank accounts, apply for loans or credit cards and basically destroy your credit rating and reputation.
How To Do a Digital Spring Clean
The good news is that digital spring cleaning doesn’t require nearly as much elbow grease as scrubbing down the microwave! Here are my top tips to add to your spring-cleaning list this year:
Weed Out Your Old Devices
Gather together every laptop, desktop computer, tablet and smartphone that lives in your house. Now, you need to be strong – work out which devices are past their use-by date and which need to be spring cleaned.
If it is finally time to part ways with your first iPad or the old family desktop, make sure any important documents or holiday photos are backed up in a few places (on another computer, an external hard drive AND in cloud storage program such as Dropbox and or iCloud) so you can erase all remaining data and recycle the device with peace of mind. Careful not to get ‘deleting’ confused with ‘erasing,’ which means permanently clearing data from a device. Deleted files can often linger in a device’s recycling folder.
Ensure Your Machines Are Clean!
It is not uncommon for viruses or malware to find their way onto your devices through outdated software so ensure all your internet-connected devices have the latest software updates including operating systems and browsers. Ideally, you should ensure that you are running the latest version of apps too. Most software packages do auto-update but please take the time to ensure this is happening on all your devices.
Review and Consolidate Files, Applications and Services
Our devices play such a huge part in our day to day lives so it is inevitable that they become very cluttered. Your kids’ old school assignments, outdated apps and programs, online subscriptions and unused accounts are likely lingering on your devices.
The big problem with old accounts is that they get hacked! And they can often lead hackers to your current accounts so it’s a no-brainer to ensure the number of accounts you are using is kept to a minimum.
Once you have decided which apps and accounts you are keeping, take some time to review the latest privacy agreements and settings so you understand what data they are collecting and when they are collecting it. You might also discover that some of your apps are using far more of your data than you realised! Might be time to opt-out!
Update Passwords and Enable Two-Factor Authentication
As the average consumer manages a whopping 11 online accounts – social media, shopping, banking, entertainment, the list goes on – updating our passwords is an important ‘cyber hygiene’ practice that is often neglected. Why not use your digital spring cleaning as an excuse to update and strengthen your credentials?
Creating long and unique passwords using a variety of upper and lowercase numbers, letters and symbols is an essential way of protecting yourself and your digital assets online. And if that all feels too complicated, why not consider a password management solution? Password managers help you create, manage and organise your passwords. Some security software solutions include a password manager such as McAfee Total Protection.
Finally, wherever possible, you should enable two-factor authentication for your accounts to add an extra layer of defense against cyber criminals. Two-factor authentication is where a user is verified by opt-out password or one-off code through a separate personal device like a smart phone.
Still not convinced? If you use social media, shop online, subscribe to specialist newsletters then your existence is scattered across the internet. By failing to clean up your ‘digital junk’ you are effectively giving a set of front door keys to hackers and risking having your identity stolen. Not a great scenario at all. So, make yourself a cuppa and get to work!
Til Next Time
As a mum of 4 sons, my biggest concerns about the era of social media is the impact of the ‘like culture’ on our children’s mental health. The need to generate likes online has become a biological compulsion for many teens and let’s be honest – adults too! The rush of dopamine that surges through one’s body when a new like has been received can make this like culture understandably addictive.
Research Shows Likes Can Make You Feel As Good As Chocolate!
The reason why our offspring (and even us) just can’t give up social media is because it can make us feel just so damn good! In fact, the dopamine surges we get from the likes we collect can give us a true psychological high and create a reward loop that is almost impossible to break. Research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows the brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are also activated when teens see large numbers of ‘likes’ on their own photos or photos of peers in a social network.
Likes and Self Worth
Approval and validation by our peers has, unfortunately, always had an impact on our sense of self-worth. Before the era of social media, teens may have measured this approval by the number of invitations they received to parties or the number of cards they received on their birthday. But in the digital world of the 21st century, this is measured very publicly through the number of followers we have or the number of likes we receive on our posts.
But this is dangerous territory. Living our lives purely for the approval of others is a perilous game. If our self-worth is reliant on the amount of likes we receive then we are living very fragile existences.
Instagram’s Big Move
In recognition of the competition social media has become for many, Instagram has decided to trial hiding the likes tally on posts. Instagram believes this move, which is also being trialled in six other countries including Canada and New Zealand, will improve the well-being of users and allow them to focus more on ‘telling their story’ and less on their likes tally.
But the move has been met with criticism. Some believe Instagram is ‘mollycoddling’ the more fragile members of our community whilst others believe it is threatening the livelihood of ‘Insta influencers’ whose income is reliant on public displays of likes.
Does Instagram’s Move Really Solve Address our Likes Culture?
While I applaud Instagram for taking a step to address the wellbeing and mental health of users, I believe that it won’t be long before users simply find another method of social validation to replace our likes stats. Whether it’s follower numbers or the amount of comments or shares, many of us have been wired to view social media platforms like Instagram as a digital popularity contest so will adjust accordingly. Preparing our kids for the harshness of this competitive digital environment needs to be a priority for all parents.
What Can Parents Do?
Before your child joins social media, it is imperative that you do your prep work with your child. There are several things that need to be discussed:
Your Kids Are So Much More Than Their Likes Tally
It is not uncommon for tweens and teens to judge their worth by the number of followers or likes they receive on their social media posts. Clearly, this is crazy but a common trend/ So, please discuss the irrationality of the likes culture and online popularity contest that has become a feature of almost all social media platforms. Make sure they understand that social media platforms play on the ‘reward loop’ that keep us coming back for more. Likes on our posts and validating comments from our followers provide hits of dopamine that means we find it hard to step away. While many tweens and teens view likes as a measure of social acceptance, it is essential that you continue to tell them that this is not a true measure of a person.
Encourage Off-Line Activities
Help your kids develop skills and relationships that are not dependent on screens. Fill their time with activities that build face-to-face friendships and develop their individual talents. Whether it’s sport, music, drama, volunteering or even a part time job – ensuring your child has a life away from screens is essential to creating balance.
Education is Key
Teaching your kids to be cyber safe and good digital citizens will minimise the chances of them experiencing any issues online. Reminding them about the perils of oversharing online, the importance of proactively managing their digital reputation and the harsh reality of online predators will prepare them for the inevitable challenges they will have to navigate.
Keep the Communication Channels Open – Always!
Ensuring your kids really understand that they can speak to you about ANYTHING that is worrying them online is one of the best digital parenting insurance policies available. If they do come to you with an issue, it is essential that you remain calm and do not threaten to disconnect them from their online life. Whether it’s cyberbullying, inappropriate texting or a leak of their personal information, working with them to troubleshoot and solve problems and challenges they face is a must for all digital parents.
Like many parents, I wish I could wave a magic wand and get rid of the competition the likes culture has created online for many of our teens. But that is not possible. So, instead let’s work with our kids to educate them about its futility and help them develop a genuine sense of self-worth that will buffer them from harshness this likes culture has created.
The post How To Help Your Kids Manage Our ‘Culture of Likes’ appeared first on McAfee Blogs.