Social Media Housekeeping

Spring break, summer vacation — you're stuck at home for a while with kids of all ages.  Everyone is spending more time than usual online, so now is a perfect time to do your Social Media Spring Cleaning! Here are some fundamental suggestions, broken down by age group. We offer tips for individuals and businesses as well.

Children 12 and younger: First and foremost, review all apps on their devices. Look through every folder. Make sure that 1) you are familiar with the apps, and 2) you have logins for the apps. Kids 12 and under should have no expectation of privacy on their devices so this will be a quick process. Open their camera roll, review all folders (including "Recently Deleted") and make sure that everything meets with your approval. If you see anything you don’t like, this is a great learning opportunity for your child.  If your child plays video games like Xbox, are they playing with or chatting with strangers on Live? This is a huge security loophole for the younger kids. Are they streaming movies they shouldn't be? Make sure that you have Family Settings locked down on your game systems. If your child has an Instagram account at this age (they often lie about their age to create an account), they probably also have a "Finsta" (fake Instagram account). Look at the app on their phone or tablet -- when you login, you will be able to see if other accounts set to automatically login. Check DMs (direct messages) on all accounts, that's where the problems usually arise. Look at who they Follow and who Follows them. Remind them that if they haven't met the person in real life, they shouldn't allow the person to follow them or communicate with them anywhere. Predators create accounts that make them look like kids.  This is a real concern.

For parents of children of all ages: Install Bark. There are a lot of utilities out there, but this one seems to be the best, especially for older kids because it's less invasive than a lot of parental control software and has a more complicated algorithm that "listens" for problems and then alerts parents to possible issues like self-harm.  One mom was featured by the Today Show, crediting the Bark App with the fact that her daughter, the victim of bullying, is alive today.  That’s a powerful testimonial.

Children 13-18: Do you have full access to your teens' mobile devices? If so, great. If you've given your older teens autonomy, then sit them down and have a talk. There's a saying that "character" is what you do when no one is watching; tell them to take this "Character Test": If their grandmother / coach / respected adult asked to see their camera roll and their social platforms (including DMs), would they be comfortable with that? If the answer is no, then they have housecleaning to do. For kids 16-18, let them do it themselves. They are on the cusp of adulthood and need to take ownership of their personal brand.  But they might need a reminder now and then, and they will certainly share things that you wish they hadn't. It's their personal brand, not yours, as hard as that can be for parents. Have them set accounts to Private so that potential admissions officers or employers aren’t seeing anything that might reflect poorly on them.  Talk about personal branding, what that means, and who may be looking as they get older.  That bikini selfie from 9th grade might still be hanging around when they’re applying for college.

Here’s a Conversation Starter: Terms of Service. Nobody reads them, but kids (and you) should understand that posts AND private conversations are monitored and can be not only read but SOLD by Instagram and other platforms. Kids really and truly don't understand that all of their online communication is the property of the platform they're using. They think it's private and that's why problems occur. Here's a summary for you to review, but dive deeper into the TOS for your kids' favorites -- maybe even print them out for a family discussion about technology, personal branding, and even civil liberties.  There has been a lot of talk about what our RIGHTS are when it comes to social media, and that’s just it; we don’t have any. You don’t have a RIGHT to social media, it’s a private business and the Terms of Service you agree to applies to everyone.  They can do what they want and they can shut you out.  It’s your job to know why and how and what to do if it happens.

Adults: Take a moment to Google yourself. If anything comes up that you don't want to see, use these steps from Google to attempt removal. This process can be convoluted and slow; the only alternative is to pay a service -- but note that these paid services don't have magic powers. They still have to go through Google and wait until Google is good and ready to do whatever they’re going to do. 

Use an app like Cleaner for Instagram to delete old posts and unfollow people you don't know (adults make this mistake too) or are no longer in touch with. Do the same on all platforms — just clean the house and lock it down. Delete old DMs. Delete old conversations in Facebook Messenger. I have not found any app or extension that does this effectively; you just have to take the time to do it manually.

You created a Twitter account in 2013 but haven't used it since? Delete it. Don't leave virtual clutter out there for someone to find, as they will read the content (old political opinions? dated selfies?) and associate it with the current you. Hackers also love to take over abandoned Twitter accounts and use them for nefarious purposes. Just because you've forgotten about your Instagram account doesn't mean it ceases to exist or won’t be found in search. If you don't remember your logins you can try Forgot Password or you may have to contact tech support— but get rid of old accounts.

If you manage social media platforms for a business, make sure that your profile pics, cover images, and bio/contact info are current and the same on every platform for brand consistency. This is so important! Make sure that no unused or old accounts linger out there. And do a full social media audit of your competitors. Note who they Follow, who Follows them, what hashtags they use, and how often they post. Use this intel to freshen up your own social media strategy.

Need help with that last part?  Let us know.

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