Social Media: how to use it safely

Use privacy settings across social media platforms to manage your digital footprint.

Social media apps on a smartphone screen

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with family, friends and keep up to date on the latest news. However, it’s important to know how to manage the security and privacy settings on your accounts, so that your personal information remains inaccessible to anyone but you. 

This page:

  • collects advice provided by the major social media platforms on how to set up privacy controls 
  • suggests some tips on how to use social media safely

Advice from social media platforms

The following guidance is provided by each of the major social media platforms. Click to read detailed information.

Use two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your accounts

Two-factor authentication (often shortened to 2FA) provides a way of 'double checking' that you really are the person you are claiming to be when you're using online services, such as social media, banking or email.  Even if a criminal (or someone simply looking to cause mischief) knows your password, they won't be able to access any of your accounts that are protected using 2FA.

Understanding your digital footprint

It's worth exercising some caution when using social media. Not everyone using social media is necessarily who they say they are. Take a moment to check if you know the person, and if the friend/link/follow is genuine. 

Less obviously, you should think about your digital footprint, which is a term used to describe the entirety of information that you post online, including photos and status updates. Criminals can use this publicly available information to steal your identity, or use it to make phishing messages more convincing. You should:

  • Think about what you're posting, and who has access to it. Have you configured the privacy options so that it's only accessible to the people you want to see it?
  • Consider what your followers and friends need to know, and what detail is unnecessary (but could be useful for criminals).
  • Have an idea about what your friends, colleagues or other contacts say about you online.

 Although aimed at businesses, CPNI’s Digital Footprint Campaign, contains a range of useful materials (including posters and booklets) to help understand the impact of your digital footprint.


The content of this page is taken from the information from the National Cyber Security Centre.