Security and Safety

4 Social Media Security Myths Busted!

By Jennifer Chappell-Smith 1.1.17

It’s a scenario most social media users are familiar with. You type your password into your daily social media channel of choice, and boom — you see posts on your page that you didn’t post. Or you go to peruse your email and find a notification alerting you to change your password. Your account was hacked.

According to the Pew Research Center’s “Social Media Update 2016,” nearly eight in 10 online Americans (79 percent) now use Facebook (68 percent of all Americans, including those not using the internet). That’s way more than other social media sites, though of online U.S. citizens, 24 percent use Twitter, 31 percent Pinterest, 32 percent Instagram, and 29 percent LinkedIn. That’s a lot of people exposing their information in a hacker-rife world.

“I think it’s really important not to make any assumptions of privacy at all when we use social media,” says Devorah Heitner, Ph.D., who founded and wrote the book Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. Otherwise, you could potentially fall for these four common social media myths:

Myth: If I understand Facebook and Instagram, I’ll be able to keep tabs on my kids’ social media usage.
Reality: New social media platforms crop up daily, and popular channels update constantly, offering more features day in and day out. In addition, kids are using Snapchat, LINE, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Kik, according to a Huffington Post report. Find out what those apps do and how to talk to your kids about them.

Myth: I’ve got a long password with random numbers and letters. I’m safe.
Reality: No, you’re not. A recent article notes that what worked a decade ago doesn’t fly today. Instead, create unique 12-digit codes that contain uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers for each site that demands a password. A password manager, such as or, can help you track all those combinations.

Myth: I’m monitoring my kids’ posts, and they don’t even know!
Reality: “Covertly monitoring is a dead end,” says Heitner, who urges parents to think about how it would affect the relationship if they had to confront their teen about something they’d posted and the child didn’t know Mom and Dad were watching. Let kids know you’re overseeing their digital interactions if you choose to do so, and develop mutual trust. Above all, be their trusted guide: “I really believe mentoring is more important,” Heitner says.

Myth: My channels are set to private on social media, which means no one can see my posts or my info.
Reality: That couldn’t be further from the truth. Geotags in photos and other discrete loopholes allow outsiders to gain access to your daily life regardless of your privacy settings. It is crucial to stay vigilant on privacy settings, updates, and education across all social media channels.

Busting the myths

In order to best bust the myths of social media security, it’s crucial to arm yourself with knowledge and get educated with books like Heitner’s and resources such as:

Educating kids

Heitner says helping kids navigate the digital world is more about communicating with them than overseeing their every move on social media sites.

Though plenty of software, such as Net Nanny, exists to monitor kids’ social media profiles, Heitner says, “mentor rather than monitor.” A study called “The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016” from Common Sense Media reports that 85 percent of parents believe monitoring their children’s media use is important for their children’s safety. Yet Heitner notes that it won’t help your child if you know how many people she’s interacted with on social media if you can’t talk to her to find out why what one of them said has made her upset. Developing a relationship with your digital native is crucial.

To talk to kids, Heitner recommends:

  • Share simple, realistic examples. “Someone getting fired at work over a social media post, or Jennifer Lawrence having [her personal] pictures hacked,” she says. Seeing consequence can help deter over-sharing.
  • Point to positive usage. “Share examples of people using their social media presence in a positive way,” she says. A great example is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the social sphere just a few years back.
  • Teach kids what to do if they do see inappropriate content. Keep the lines of communication open so kids will tell you if they do run across something they shouldn’t.
  • Be a good role model. “If you want kids to do the right thing, let them catch you doing the right thing,” Heitner says.

See for yourself

To see how secure Facebook content is, I conducted a quick test. I made up a name, which I won’t divulge here, and Googled it along with the word Facebook. The first profile that popped up in my search engine was for a woman I didn’t recognize, yet Facebook alerted me that she and I had five mutual Facebook friends. People I knew well — from college — also know this woman, who was a stranger to me. If I sent her a friend request, she’d probably accept it. Without doing that, I could still see that she had updated her cover profile photo (cute shot of her Elf on the Shelf antics). The Intro section let me know she was a wife to a great guy and a mom of three boys, and that she worked inside and outside the home. I clicked on the photos tab and could see her past profile photos. But when I clicked the About tab, Facebook drew the line. “To see what she shares with friends, send her a friend request,” it told me, adding a convenient link. But I had already seen plenty.

Does that make you wonder what people can see about you and your family in your social media posts? After all, Facebook introduced new privacy settings earlier in 2016, but have you checked them out? Social media users aren’t always social media savvy. Heitner says privacy settings can change, or you may get the settings wrong. So follow the same advice she recommends you tell teens: “If you would be devastated by anything that would appear in public, don’t post it.”

Social media and your personal identity are as intertwined as the spurs on your cowboy boots. Protect your online identity with these tips in our social savvy guide to online identity protection, plus take advantage of the VerifID Texas Farm Bureau member benefit.