My daughter often reminds me of ‘stranger danger’. At 13, she has had this drummed into her in so many lessons at school that she finds it obscure that I follow so many people I don’t know in real-life. Indeed, ‘following strangers’ goes against everything that I have ever told her. As an adult though, I always think I know better and assume that I will be safe in the online world.
Since I started using Twitter regularly in 2020, I have received many direct messages. Some of them have been questions, others have been support and others have been:
Hello, how are you today?
This direct message now sends off warning lights for me. I have discovered through trial and error that where I am using Twitter as a means of connecting with other educators around the globe, many people are using Twitter as a means of finding a partner (and in some cases that is a very generous description).
As many of you know, I do follow people back who follow me, as I believe in connecting and to do that both people need to follow each other. However, I have learnt not to blindly follow, so here is what I do…
I look at their profile picture – does it look genuine or is it from shutterstock? Fake accounts tend to use stock photos or Bitmojis.
I look at the bio – does it mention teaching, school, blog? If it is extremely vague or non-existent I investigate further before following.
I look at the timeline – does it appear as an educators timeline would?
I also look at who they follow. If it is mainly females then I am very wary.
Once I have checked these things, then I follow.
Some fake accounts however, are so cleverly created that they slip through the net and I assume that they are real before I get ‘that DM’. Recently, someone was posing as a head and had a great photo (not obviously a stock photo), a good bio, an educational timeline and followed a variety of people. However, the account was fake and the impersonator was direct messaging many females on Twitter. Thankfully, his actions were questioned and the account was closed.
My daughter is right to remind me of stranger danger. Just because I am a grown-up and happily married (20 years in October), doesn’t meant that I am safe. I have to be aware of who I am connecting with and I have to connect intentionally. I truly hope my ramblings help someone and please share your top tips for remaining safe online with me.