Friends and threats are usually easy to distinguish. The problem with social media is that anyone might be one or the other, all while knowing where you are, what you’re doing and how your life online has been playing out. We shouldn’t ignore this. On top of our problems with bots and scam artists, Tech News World reveals that a third of Americans have created a fake social account — ostensibly to share their anonymous thoughts or spy on the unwary. Even if you’re not interacting with a user (who may or may not be real), there are still sizable privacy risks lurking within every post.
It’s easy to see why you’re concerned for your own social media safety or that of your child or relative. That’s why we’re on hand for quick, reliable privacy tips for three top social platforms: Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Pin them right at the front of your mind to keep intrusive elements out and reinforce the good sides of social media.
Given its age and tumultuous recent history, Facebook has a wealth of privacy options for the casual and heavy user.
- Restrict new friend requests: Block anyone trying to add you randomly if they have no prior connection at all. Go to Settings > Privacy > Who Can Contact Me > Friends Of Friends.
- Change core privacy settings: Everything you post — from holiday snaps to job updates — has the potential for malicious manipulation. Switch Facebook to private mode by hitting Privacy and toggling it from Public to Friends.
- Hide old posts: Once you’ve restricted who can see new posts, make sure there’s a veil over previous material too. Find Your Activity in Privacy settings, then click Limit Past Posts under Limit The Audience For Old Posts On Your Timeline.
- Enable two-factor authentication: This will send a prompt via SMS or an authentication app to check you’re logging in, stopping hackers who’ve managed to steal your password. Find it at Security And Login > Two-Factor Authentication > Edit.
- Block unwanted messages: Perhaps you want to limit an ex partner, colleague or friend from speaking to you directly on Facebook Messenger, but allow them to see your timeline. Select the conversation with the user you want to restrict and click their profile picture. From there, choose either or both Block Messages and Block Calls.
Facebook owns this platform, meaning some of your privacy concerns are interconnected. But there are unique settings for Instagram as well.
- Make your account completely private: Nobody will see your photos, reels or stories unless you approve it or accept their “follow” request. Visit Settings > Privacy > Account Privacy and toggle the lock.
- Block unwanted feed views: Cordon off certain users so they can’t see what you’re posting. Visit the user’s account, tap the top-right menu and select Block. You can unblock them at any time.
- Stop stories from appearing on Facebook: The platform doesn’t automatically do this, but you or your child may have connected accounts and turned it on without realizing the implications. Resolve it by going to Settings > Privacy > Story > Share Your Story To Facebook.
- Share photos with chosen followers: Even if you have a trustworthy, healthy follower count, you might only want some people to see what you’re posting on any given day. Tell Instagram who you want to view a post at the end of the upload cycle — there’s an option to select accounts after editing and captions.
- Turn off location access: Like Snapchat, Instagram lets users and the platform itself see where you are, leveraging GPS data. But you can turn it off on iPhone by heading to Privacy > Location Settings > Instagram and toggling either Never or While Using The App.
As the most popular social media app on the planet, TikTok has come under increasing pressure to keep you safe and unintruded. Our privacy tips can at least help you avoid bad users, identity theft and harmful content.
- Remove ad authorization: Anyone on the platform can reuse your videos for advertising. Follow Privacy And Security on your three-dot right-hand menu to toggle this off.
- Privitize your account: When you lock down a TikTok account, other users can download your posts and see personal information. Again, go to Privacy And Security and switch it off. You can also tell TikTok to not suggest your account elsewhere.
- Stay anonymous: Do you really need to share a selfie or your actual name? Opt for something more abstract and random when filling out your profile.
- Set a child’s account to restricted mode: There are three age-based levels — 13 year-olds, for instance, can’t search for videos or send messages, while a 16 year-old can’t receive digital gifts. Open Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Restricted Mode.
- Set up family pairing: This feature allows you to limit screen time and restrictions wherever you are from your own phone. Make an account yourself, then go to Settings > Family Pairing and select Parent from the menu. Scan the QR code and link your child’s account.
These suggestions are fairly comprehensive, but they’re just the start of safe, reliable social media habits. Double down on your cyber protection — try a free Total Defense trial!