0

Social media unsafe for personal information

Does your child have a Facebook account? Have you checked to be sure they do not have any personal information posted there that is accessible the the public? Are you sure?

We have recently had to deal with an issue caused by personal information on Facebook and I wanted to send a reminder and warning to local parents.

Just because we live in a relatively quiet, safe, sheltered area of the country, don't think for a minute that it is OK for personal information to be posted in a public area of social media sites like Facebook.

My daughter had at some point entered her cell phone number on her Facebook page under personal information. She didn't think twice about it, because it's just a cell phone -- right? Well, that little bit of information caused a lot of heartache.

A few weeks ago, she received a call on her cell phone -- the caller ID listed it as a "restricted" number. This was the first time she had ever received a call that was "restricted" and answered it without thinking.

The caller, with voice disguised, wouldn't reveal their identity, but did make several comments to my daughter about our family -- all information that is easily gathered from a Facebook page. The call was really rather benign, but enough warning bells had finally gone off that she came to me and put the phone on the speaker so we could all hear it.

The call quickly went from benign to threatening ... disturbingly threatening.

For various reasons, we took the call as a real threat and contacted local authorities, who likewise took it seriously. The outcome was tough for all involved, but it has been resolved.

The entire mess was the result of a cell phone number on Facebook.

If you are not aware, be warned that Facebook makes changes to their privacy settings from time to time. If you have personal information on Facebook, the possibility exists that it could eventually become public, or at least less than perfectly private.

Also, talk to you children about cell phones and caller ID. If you or they receive a call listed as "restricted" or "private," simply do not answer. If a caller hides their identity, there is a reason!

It's a crying shame that it took this event to drive the point home to me that a lot of pain and grief can come into our lives by simple carelessness. My wife and I have been diligent about monitoring our children's social media accounts for content, but it never crossed our minds to monitor for personal information that could be going out without our approval.

I hope you will use our short course from the School of Hard Knocks to avoid a similar lesson. Teach your kids about the risks of social media -- and, for that matter, telephones!

MARL HALBROOK

Albany