Tens of millions of Americans use social media sites on a daily basis, but experts say that these people often don't do enough to protect themselves when doing so. As a consequence, they may leave themselves open to a myriad of problems that can arise, including identity theft, if they share too much information. For this reason, it's often a good idea for people to revisit the best practices for using social media in a way that allows them to have as much fun as they want while also protecting themselves.

The biggest step in this regard is to make sure privacy standards for each of a person's accounts are as hefty as their social networks will allow, according to a report from Drexel University's College of Computing and Informatics. That means keeping Twitter accounts set to private, and limiting the amount of information being shared on Facebook to "friends only." Otherwise, just about anyone may be able to find personally identifying information about a person, their whereabouts, or even details of their financial lives.

"While social media use is safe for the most part, sharing personal information online does come with an element of risk," said Denise Agosto, a professor at the Drexel University College of Computer and Informatics.

Be more careful
In addition, many users would simply be wise to not even share personal information when they do trust people, the report said. This isn't to say those people can't be trusted, but their accounts can be hacked or at least accessed by others, which in turn may give those third parties the ability to view plenty of profiles. Consequently, not publishing data such as email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses, birthdays, and so on is often a good idea regardless of privacy settings.

In addition, those who want to connect with friends but don't want to be found quite so easily often set up accounts under assumed names, or simply use their middle names as their last names, just to make themselves a little more difficult to track down, the report said. For instance, many teachers do this so their students can't look them up online.

Make sure your next visit to your favorite social media site isn't one you regret.Make sure your next visit to your favorite social media site isn't one you regret.

Just be prudent
Furthermore, many people find themselves guilty of "over-sharing" on social media, which basically means that even if they're protecting a lot of personal information, they might still post status updates and the like that reveal data they may not want out there, the report said. This can be especially true when embarrassing information gets posted as a result of indiscretion. A good general rule is, "If you wouldn't tell this to a stranger, you shouldn't share it online."

Finally, basic account security standards, such as having a long, complex password – and changing that login information on a regular basis – also apply on social media. All this can go a long way toward not only protecting online information, but also avoiding real-world headaches.