5 Guidelines if you’re gonna "Facebook It"

I can't tell you how many stories I hear from people about the mistakes they make while social networking. Some stories are just funny mishaps, but other mistakes can be quite serious. In an effort to keep it fun but take care of your digital doppelganger at the same time, here are 5 Guidelines if you’re gonna Facebook it:

Rule #1: Don't Ignore Your Privacy Settings
This is crucial. Take a moment and go to Account and then Privacy Settings and read through it so you can choose your privacy settings. For almost everything in your Facebook profile, you can limit access to only your friends, friends of friends, or yourself. You can restrict access to photos (plus birth date, religious views, family information, etc.) or you can give only certain people access to items such as photos. You can even block particular people from seeing certain information. Privacy experts suggest leaving out your contact info, such as phone number and address, since you probably don't want anyone to have access to that information anyway.

Also, if you want to prevent strangers and search engines from accessing your page, go to the Search section of Facebook's privacy controls and select Only Friends for Facebook search results. Be sure the box for public search results isn't checked. Privacy is your right to freedom from unauthorized intrusion, but it's up to you to protect it online!
See also: privacy (including The EFF's Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy)

Rule #2: Don't Post Too Much Personal Information
According to Consumer Reports and Internet child safety advocates, do not post your child's name in a caption. If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name.

Don't leave your full birth date in your profile. It's an ideal target for identity thieves, who could use it to obtain more information about you and potentially gain access to your bank or credit card account. If you've already entered a birth date, go to your Profile page and click on the Info tab, then on Edit Information. Under the Basic Information section, choose to show only the month and day. I know, I know, you've already been told this but you'd be surprised how many people don't act on it.
See also: digital footprint, identity crash, identity theft, open the drapes

Rule #3: Don't “Friend” Guys or Girls You’ve Just Met or Just Started Dating
My 40-year-old single friend's story best illustrates this rule... "I met Ken on match.com a few weeks ago and things were going well. It was technically our 3rd date, but this date involved a long day of 4th of July festivities at the beach along with some younger cousins (30ish) from his side of the family. Drinks were had, food eaten, pictures taken all day long. It was funny, too because I kept hearing the 30 somethings exclaim, as they looked and LOL’d at the LCD screen of their digital cameras, "Facebook it!" Since when has "Facebook it" become the new "Google it?" Anyway, other than the Internet being responsible for yet another new verb added to our lingo, I wasn’t much concerned. My 3rd date with Ken had ended after a beautiful display of fireworks over the Pacific Ocean. Was I really starting to like this guy? Hmmmm, kind of, but the verdict was still out.

Monday morning, coffee in hand, it’s back to the grind, but of course not before checking in on Facebook. Sleepily, I read through the various postings and I come to Ken’s, posted 22 min’s ago. He and his cousins had posted AND TAGGED me in every photo taken! EVERY photo was now on MY profile! OMG, how many people had seen these??? I mean, its not that there was anything incriminating in the photos, but I just wasn’t ready for my closest friends and family and business associates to see my personal life. SO up close and personal. I don’t even know if this guy’s gonna be in my life next week, you know!? Not two seconds later, my phone rings and it’s my Italian mother wanting to know every detail. "Who’s she and he? And wow, is that his place? Whose dog?" "Oh you look so happy in the pictures!" "Tuck your tummy in!" After getting rid of her, so I could tend to (not my first) social networking crisis, I promptly began searching my privacy settings, which I really knew nothing about. I just frantically clicked everything off and then called people, "What can you see now? Are they gone???!" After a few tries, I finally found the way to untag all the photos and some courage to bring up my first “talk” with Ken. Ugh, not sure what is worse: online dating or social networking! But the two combined is definitely not for me! In the end, Ken understood my greater need for privacy and understood why I untagged the photos. I am happy to report we are still FB friends but no longer exploring a possible relationship (a mere 3 days later and he told me he "wasn't feelin it," my earlier point exactly). Maybe dating and social networking can co-exist when you put some basic guidelines in place."
See also: online dating, social networking, anti-social networking

Rule #4: Don't Use a Weak Password
According to Consumer Reports and online privacy experts, avoid simple names or words you can find in a dictionary, even with numbers tacked on the end. Instead, mix upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. A password should have at least eight characters. One good technique is to insert numbers or symbols in the middle of a word, such as this variant on the word "houses": hO27usEs!
See also: cryptic password, leetspeak

Rule #5: Don't Permit Your Kids to use Facebook while Unsupervised
Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, but children younger than that do use it. If you have a young child or teenager on Facebook, the best way to provide oversight is to become one of their online friends. Use your e-mail address as the contact for their account so that you receive their notifications and monitor their activities. "What they think is nothing can actually be pretty serious," says Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. For example, a child who posts the comment "Mom will be home soon, I need to do the dishes" every day at the same time is revealing too much about the parents' regular comings and goings.
See also: facebooking, FBOCD, generation y, screenagers, tween, texting

The 5 Guidelines if You’re Gonna "Facebook It" is online at http://netlingo.blogspot.com. Subscribe to the posts by clicking on Subscribe to RSS Posts and choosing your RSS reader, or subscribe to it here!