Social media safety tips for the health care setting and beyond

Apr 7 2017

Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with friends and family. It has also opened new doors for people with ill intentions to take advantage of others. Whether it’s your baby’s first doctor’s appointment or celebration after a successful therapy visit, be mindful of what you share online to protect your child’s private health information. When you’re in the hospital or another health care setting, there are some specific guidelines to keep in mind prior to posting on social media.A happy, young female patient with a medical bracelet takes a self portrait on her mobile phone while she waits for a doctor in an examination room at a hospital. British Columbia, Canada

  • Be sure that there are no other patients in the background of photos. This is an important privacy consideration.
  • Ask health care team members for their permission before including them in photos.
  • For your safety and privacy, avoid taking/posting photos that contain medical information, which can be found on wrist bands, computer monitors, white boards and other common locations throughout the hospital.
  • Do not reveal your location within the hospital (i.e., do not show room numbers or other identifying information).

Of course social media safety is important beyond the walls othe hospital as well. Take a moment to review these tips with your children to help keep them safety savvy, whether they’re avid social media users or logging in for the first time.

Use privacy settings
If you haven’t updated your privacy settings on social media, people you’ve never met can access your information. The best rule of thumb is to keep your settings at the strictest levels, which means only your friends can see your posts.

Share sparingly
Profile pages allow you to share all kinds of information, including your birth date, address, phone number and family relationships to name a few. Hackers will use this information to try to decipher your passwords or gain access to additional details that will allow them to steal your identity. Typically, social media sites require a name and email address. Everything else is optional and it’s safest to limit the optional information you provide.

Limit connections to people you know
Choose friends and connections carefully. If you don’t know a person in real life, it’s best not to connect with them on social media. Be particularly cautious if someone begins a conversation that leads to discussions about physical characteristics or romantic encounters. Stop these interactions immediately and alert an adult to avoid becoming a predator’s target. It’s also critical to avoid in-person meetings. Even it if feels like you know someone you’ve met online, you don’t really know them or their true intentions.

Be careful with photos
Once you post a photo, it’s easy for others to gain access to it and tag, share or copy it for future use. What may seem cute or fun at the moment, can easily become embarrassing if it is altered or shared with unintended recipients. You never know where your photos may end up. When taking and sharing photos, be mindful of what’s in the background as well. A photo may include other people who do not wish to have their photos on social media.

Use caution with your location
Unfortunately, you can’t trust everyone. While it may be tempting let people know how much fun you’re having at a particular place, it’s not safe. Make sure that your location cannot be identified by the pictures you post in real-time. Turn off GPS capabilities on your smartphone before posting as well.

Keep passwords private
If someone else logs into your account, they can impersonate you and gain access to your personal information. Make sure your password is strong, with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and something that cannot be guessed easily. Relationships change over time so don’t share your password with anyone, even friends.

Think before you post
Remember the internet is permanent when you consider venting, complaining, using inappropriate language or posting photos that may not show your most positive decisions. Assume that once you post information, it stays visible forever (even if you delete it), which can have an important impact as you apply for colleges and jobs in the future.

Be respectful
What you say about yourself and others on social media reflects on you. As always, treat others the way you would like to be treated. If you feel like you’re being bullied or harassed on social media, contact local authorities and/or the specific social media outlet.

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