I love Twitter and Facebook. I even love Foursquare. What can I say, I am competitive! But I travel a lot by myself and I’m always running around town with my kids. Are these apps safe? Is mobile social networking a responsible thing to do?
Of course, it all depends on how you use them and who you ask. I know there are police officers who think that mobile social networking and location-based apps are just begging for trouble. Obviously, I am not of that mindset, but I do think there are steps you should take to protect yourself and those you love.
1) Decide if you are in a position where you want to meet new, unknown people.
When I am at the park with my four kids I don’t really want strangers knowing I am there. And I definitely don’t want them to meet my kids!
If you are not in a position to meet new people that doesn’t stop you from using Foursquare but it does affect how you use it. When I go to the park with the kids, I check in when I leave. I get the points but I insulate my kids.
I don’t Foursquare my house – I don’t need that worry! But don’t assume that everyone who does list their house is putting themselves in jeopardy. I know a blogger who has her house on Foursquare but the listing she uses is actually a couple of blocks away. So there is always that option if you really need it.
2) Decide if you want people to know where you are not.
Are you worried about your house being broken into when you are out of town? Did you just leave your kids at a play date?
The first thing I would recommend you do is turn off any auto-location feature like the one on Twitter. You can pretend to be at home all you want but the auto-location feature will tell a different story.
The safest thing you can do is just be careful what you put out on social networking sites. Don’t talk about how you are sure your tomato plants are going to die because no-one will be there to water them. Don’t talk about how your kids are going to the movies by themselves for the first time. There are times when you have to separate your real and social networking lives.
3) Make sure you are in a safe place before you decide to meet new people.
Are you in a public place? Do you feel safe? If you answer ‘yes’ to both these questions, then this could be the perfect time to use location-based social networks for everything they are meant to be. There is nothing like tweeting that you want to meet up for coffee at a conference or share a picture of an item you are thinking about buying.
Simple questions with simple answers – let these be your guide to what you say on mobile social networks and when!
I have been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.