What are the dangers of social media and how can we avoid them?

HOW CAN THEY BE DANGEROUS?

There has been a huge increase in internet access in sub-Saharan Africa over the last few years. Internet access means access to social media and social community platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Nairaland. It lets people stay in touch with their friends and family and access education and information platforms. But, whilst there are many benefits to these platforms, they pose some dangers too which should be looked out for.

ACCESS TO PERSONAL INFORMATION AND IDENTITY FRAUD

Social media platforms sometimes need personal information to set up your page. This can include important dates about yourself, your email, and your phone number. This is usually fine, but if the information can be seen by other people, they can use it themselves. This can lead to identity fraud, which is when someone uses your personal information to benefit themselves. A common use is to access bank accounts or opening credit card accounts in one’s name.

DECEPTION BY STRANGERS

Strangers are often able to message you. People can use fake identities and pretend to be someone you know to talk with you. Strangers can use these fake identities to grow close to you, often with romantic intent. Anyone can be a victim of this. In extreme circumstances, strangers talking to people on social media can lead to human trafficking.

For example, a good looking man may message a girl on Facebook. They talk and grow close, and begin a romantic relationship despite never having met in person. He convinces her to meet him somewhere in private. However, when she meets him she realises he is not who he claimed to be and is now in a private location with a complete stranger. This is known as the ‘lover-boy’ technique. It means the trafficker can coerce their victim from a distance and build up their trust before meeting them. Teenage girls are especially targeted.

LASTING INFORMATION

Once something is on the internet, it can stay there forever. Even if it is deleted immediately, someone might have archived it or taken a photo on their phone. A current or future employer may then be able to see what someone has posted years before. Any offensive content, even if intended as a joke, could damage their reputation and even lose them their job.

HOW TO STAY SAFE ONLINE

– Check your privacy settings to see what other people can see on your profile. These allow you to control what is shown to the public and your friends.

– Don’t post personal details online. Check your photos which may reveal your address or where you work.

– Only accept trusted contacts as your friends. If you do start talking to a stranger, ask them to a send a picture of them holding up a piece of paper with your name on it, and make sure their face is in it too.

– Never give someone your passport or card details if you are not certain who they are.

– Google yourself to see what information is available online.

SOPHIE GULL

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