The internet is an amazing resource, allowing people to form social connections and support networks, as well as accessing more information than ever before… all at the click of a button.
Caution should be exercised when using the internet and social media as it can leave some users vulnerable to things like online scams, exploitation and the oversharing of personal information.
However, when used correctly, the internet and social media can be excellent tools for brain injury survivors, their families, and carers.
We’ve put together some top tips for staying safe online:
To protect yourself and your information you should use passwords that are difficult for someone else to guess, while still relatively easy for you to remember.
Avoid setting passwords that include personal information, such as your name, birthday or email address.
A strong password should be more than six characters long and include a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Randomly generated passwords are the strongest, however, they are also the hardest to remember.
Try not to use the same password for every website you’re using because if someone guesses it, they will be able to access all your accounts.
Remembering passwords is hard for anyone but will be particularly difficult for brain injury survivors experiencing memory problems. Instead of writing your passwords on paper where someone might find them, you can use a password manager to generate passwords and store them securely online. Many password managers are available, such as Google Chrome’s Password Manager, Last Pass, Dashlane and Keeper.
Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great places to connect with friends and share updates on your life.
However, it is important to remember that when you share something on social media it has the potential to reach many people. It may be shared by others outside of your network and can still be seen even after you’ve deleted the post.
Therefore, be careful about sharing personal information that could leave you vulnerable. Never reveal your address, personal telephone number or bank details on social media.
Be cautious about posting photographs of yourself on social media and, if you’re unsure whether a photo is suitable consider asking a friend or family member what they think first.
Different social media networks have their own privacy settings. You can usually find these under ‘settings’ or ‘options’ on your profile.
It is advisable to set your privacy settings to enable only ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ to see what you post. Otherwise, anyone can visit your profile and see everything you have shared.
It’s important to remember that setting your profile to private doesn’t mean that your posts can’t be seen by others outside of your network. One of your friends could share the post to their network, for example, so remain cautious about what you’re sharing.
One of the biggest advantages of the internet and social media is the ability to communicate with people from all over the world. It’s a great way to connect with others, seek support and share information.
However, this comes with its own issues and may leave brain injury survivors particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
Unfortunately, a small minority of people see the internet as an opportunity to take advantage of others. They may pretend to be someone they’re not to extract personal information or convince people into doing things they don’t want to do.
Never send any personal information to someone you have never met in person; this includes telling someone where you live or giving them your bank details.
Never send anyone a photo or video that could leave you in a compromising situation. For example, a photo that exposes intimate areas or a video of you doing anything you wouldn’t want other people to see. If anyone is pressurising you to send a photo or video, close the chat and report them.
Sometimes friendships formed online can develop into an offline relationship. The rise of online dating has contributed to this and can be a very helpful way for brain injury survivors to connect with others.
However, extreme caution should be taken when arranging to meet someone in ‘real-life’ for the first time. The following should be applied:
When using the internet, it’s important to be mindful of things that don’t seem right.
Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Sometimes it can be hard to know whether something is genuine or not. If you’re unsure, get a second opinion from a family member, carer or support worker.
Some common scams include:
In fact, a lot of it isn’t!
Many websites spread untrue or exaggerated news stories, often called ‘clickbait’ or ‘fake news’, to encourage people to click on their links. Don’t assume the first thing you read is true, instead be open to reading different sources to get a more accurate overview.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the posts your friends are sharing might not always give a true representation of their lives.
Occasionally on the internet people forget that behind every post is a real person.
Your comments could upset someone without you even realising, so don’t say anything to anyone online that you wouldn’t say to their face.
Think before you post!
You should never accept being abused, bullied or harassed online. There are people to talk to if this is happening.
The internet can be addictive and it’s important to strike a healthy balance between the online and offline worlds.
Try not to spend hours endlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram to the detriment of getting out and meeting people in ‘real-life’.
Consider doing an activity that doesn’t involve the internet, such as a sport or hobby. Attending your local Headway group is also a great way to meet new people.
Following Headway on social media is a great way to keep up to date with the latest brain injury-related news and to join in the conversation.
We also have an online forum – HealthUnlocked – which is the perfect place for brain injury survivors and their loved ones to ask questions, seek support and make connections.
Get Safe Online www.getsafeonline.org
Age UK: Staying safe online https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/work-learning/technology-internet/internet-security/
Child safety online https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/child-safety-online-a-practical-guide-for-parents-and-carers/child-safety-online-a-practical-guide-for-parents-and-carers-whose-children-are-using-social-media
Facebook privacy settings and tools https://www.facebook.com/help/325807937506242
Instagram privacy settings and tools https://help.instagram.com/116024195217477
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