Editorial on ELTNEWS.com
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When you're trying to connect with other teachers in social networks, how private is too private? How accessible is too accessible?

On the one hand, if you stay too private, it's hard to make new friends. If you make yourself too accessible, then spammers and hackers will also find you. So, how can we be open enough to make new friends and protect ourselves from spam and viruses?

I haven't found a simple answer, but I have come up with a few simple guidelines that work for me.

Use the same common sense online that you use with email.

We're suspicious of links we get in email messages. We delete messages from people we don't know. We scan attachments before opening them. We need to do the same with messages we receive through social networks. Friends don't usually send friends links in private messages without some sort of explanation.

Check shortened website addresses before opening links.

Short URLs make it easy to share links, but difficult to know where those links might lead. It's always a good idea to check the original address before clicking on a link. Some programs have a built in function to preview websites, but you can always copy and paste a short URL into Sucuri Security and get the real URL and see where the link will take you, and decide whether or not you want to go there.

Avoid online games and quizzes that ask for your ID and password.

This is a tough one, and I know teachers who enjoy playing games on social sites, and even use the games for language teaching. But I don't feel comfortable with programs that ask for access to my friends, or my private information.The main point is to be informed so that we can choose the balance between privacy and accessibility that works best for us. The ACLU has an interesting quiz if you ever want to see what kind of information quizzes can access: What Facebook Quizzes Know about You. (The ACLU has a privacy policy that prevents them from using any of the information they access--their quiz is an educational tool.)

What about you? How have you found a balance between privacy and access? What tips can you share to help us enjoy the benefits of social networking, but still stay safe?

Check in every weekend for a new editorial by David, Steven, Theron or me. We love your interest in EFL and your comments!

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