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Social Media Tips for Youths Who Are in Immigration Proceedings

Being careful online is always important. It can be especially important if you are in an immigration proceeding.

Know your online image.

Search for your name on the internet so you can know what information and pictures are associated with it. This is the information anyone interested in learning more about you may see. “Anyone” might be someone considering you for employment, a school admissions office, someone interested in dating you, your parent, or your younger sibling. In addition, the information and pictures associated with your name can be reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and may affect how your immigration case is decided. DHS might accuse you of being a gang member or of committing a drug crime, for example, simply based on photos or information you post on social media.

Consider the name you use online and the e-mail address associated with it.

Nothing requires you to use your real name on social media. You can use a nickname and provide it to only those individuals you want to. And nothing requires you to use your main email address for your social media accounts.

Turn off the GPS locator.

Do you really want your social media account to tell everyone where you are? Do you want your smartphone to tell everyone where you are? These can be dangerous tools as they not only affect your privacy but also make you an easy target for crime. Just by way of example, if a criminal knows where you live and that you are not at home, that makes it a good time to break in!

Think before you post.

You want an online image that you can be proud of. Remember that everything you post on the internet can be accessed by others, even after you erase the post. This includes everything you post -- personal facts, ideas, photographs, and articles. The internet has a good memory – it never forgets!

Protect your image.

Don’t post pictures of yourself and/or others that you or they will regret having shared later on. Once posted, those photos can be shared over and over again by others. You can really damage your image or the image of someone else even if you are able to subsequently “delete” the post. If someone else does post a picture with you in it, you can ask them to delete it, or you can un-"tag" yourself, so as to at least limit who can view the photo.

Watch your language.

Think before you use vulgar or harsh language, especially when directing that language at someone else. Again, you can really damage your image. You can also hurt someone else’s feelings and image, even if subsequently you are able to “delete” the post. Once the words are posted, they cannot be taken back.

Respect others’ privacy.

The Golden Rule applies even to the internet –"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Don’t post pictures of others you would not want posted of yourself. And don’t share details about someone else’s life that are not yours to share. Respect the right of others to keep pictures and information about themselves off the internet. Just because someone has shared something with you does not mean they want everyone on the internet to know about it.

Reject some friend requests.

Everyone is not your friend, and social media can expose you to all types of dangerous people all over the world. Be selective in accepting friend requests. Only accept people you know and who are your friends. If you don't know the person — don't accept the request.

Limit your exposure.

You don’t know who will see your information or images or how they will use it, so limit what you post. You don’t want to be a victim of identify theft or worse because your name, date of birth, address, and other personal information are readily available online. Also, if you log into one of your accounts from someone else’s device, make sure to log out completely. That way, someone else isn’t able to access your information or post as you!

Safeguard your passwords.

Although it may seem harmless to share your password with someone you trust now, don’t. Relationships change. You don’t want someone else to have access to your accounts for two reasons—1) they’ll have access to your private information, and 2) they could pretend to be you and post damaging information or photos. For each social media account, keep your password to yourself and don’t make it one that is easy to guess (like your name or birthday). Instead, use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Do not use the same password for all of your accounts, and change your passwords frequently.

Close old accounts.

Close accounts you no longer utilize. They can be especially problematic because you are not monitoring them. Your online image may be affected without you even knowing someone has gained access to your old account or is posting information about you on an old forum you haven’t logged into in ages.

Demands for your password.

If someone demands access to your social media account(s) and you feel obliged to allow them that access (like someone from the Department of Homeland Security), offer to enter any passwords yourself as opposed to giving them your passwords. If you feel required to provide a password, change it as soon as you are able to do so to protect your privacy and prevent tampering with your account.

Understand the privacy settings offered by the applications you use.

When using an application, learn about its privacy settings. As much as you can, limit who can see the information and images you post to those you know and trust. And be an informed user. Understand how the application might use the information and images you provide.

Lock your phone and other devices.

All the time, people lose phones, their phones are stolen, or someone decides to snoop and look at someone else’s phone. Chances are one of these things will happen to you, and if it is not your phone, it’ll be your computer, i-Pad or other device. All of these devices hold so much information about you – information available in your texts, voicemails, e-mail communications, photos, social media accounts, and more. Keep this information as private as possible by locking your devices.