How social media can protect your home
Social media is blamed for so many ills in society - and oversharing online is well recognised as a major security risk. However, making use of social media doesn't have to damage your security measures. In fact, if you join the right groups, it can help keep your home safe.
See also: Neighbours at loggerheads over 50ft hedge
See also: Reading is home to 'nosiest property price neighbours'
See also: New neighbours top home-movers' list of worries
Neighbourhoods aren't the close-knit communities they once were. With so many dual-income households, everyone works longer hours, and after a massive commute has little time for their neighbours. As a result four in five people in the UK say they don't know everyone on their street.
In busy cities, this is even more striking, as many people would struggle to name a single other person living in their road. People move in and out of the area so quickly that there's precious little opportunity to get to know one another.
However, while we don't have time for our neighbours, most people are finding the time to go online, and social media is beginning to bridge the gap.
Research by home insurer Together Mutual Insurance discovered that one in five people are using online groups to communicate with their neighbours through social media. Some 8% were members of local Facebook groups, 7% joined WhatsApp groups and iMessage, and 11% used one-to-one messaging. It's even possible to join a neighbourhood watch scheme online.
When asked about the benefits, 45% said it was useful to be able to update everyone at the same time, while a third said it was easier than trying to bring people together, and one in five said it helped create a sense of community. In addition, a quarter of people said they had discussed security issues in their neighbourhood groups.
This has proven invaluable for many people. One local group, Hello Clevedon, has 9,000 members in the North Somerset town (which itself is home to just over 20,000 people). They use the site to ask one another for recommendations of tradespeople, highlight missing pets, post photos, explore local history, share details of lost and found valuables, and discuss security issues.
In the past few months they have warned one another about cowboy traders, requested advice on doorstep salespeople, shared details of thefts, and highlighted drivers behaving suspiciously. They have also asked for (and provided) witnesses of crimes ranging from car theft to burglary.
In some cases, neighbourhoods have gone even further, and set up specific neighbourhood watch groups. Jon Craven, CEO at Together Mutual Insurance, said: "It's very pleasing to see communities are capitalising on modern technology to alert their fellow neighbours at an instant, should they have concerns. It might be tempting to think that neighbourhood watch groups are part of a bygone era, but moving them online is a great idea and will ensure this vital community activity continues to help protect our homes."
But what do you think? Do you stay in touch with the neighbours online - or do you prefer to get to know them face-to-face? Let us know in the comments.