Online issues for children and young people

Protect your privacy!

Every time you publish information online, for everyone to see, a little bit of your privacy will disappear and you will be adding to your online reputation and digital footprint. Of course, when you create profiles on social networking sites or when you are chatting with others you always give away some private details about yourself but be careful: not everyone online has good intentions. Help protect your privacy by following these simple guidelines.

Protect your privacy online   

You can protect your privacy by never publishing personal data online such as your real name, address, telephone number, the name of your school or college or information concerning friends and family. If you do choose to publish some of this information make sure that you only share it with people that you know and trust.
When chatting, you can use a nickname and an avatar. Try to avoid getting personal if you don't actually know the person(s) you are chatting with. Also ensure that you do not unknowingly give away any information that could help a predator locate or identify you (for example, your hobbies or places where you like to hang out).
When entering websites where personal information is asked for, be sure that those sites are trustworthy and ask why your information is needed before sending it. In all cases, consult the ‘terms and conditions' and/or the ‘privacy statement' of the company operating the website, or check with an adult you trust. Privacy settings, and terms and conditions can be really complicated. If you don’t understand them make sure that you ask for help.

Never give your passwords to others

Passwords serve as proof of identity. Giving out your password means that you allow someone else to act on your behalf: something you should never do. Disclosing your password to someone else effectively means that you are responsible for any activity he or she may carry out online, and it will be traced back to you if this person misuses the internet. If you believe that somebody has found out your password, you should immediately change it. 
Always try to have a password that nobody else would be able to guess and use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols to strengthen it. Do not use passwords with your date of birth, pet name, or any information that most people would know about you or that you may have shared on a social networking site. It’s best to have different passwords (or variants of one) for different accounts. That way, if someone gets into one of your accounts they won’t be able to get into all of them.
Be sure to remember the answer to your secret question: this is a good way to reset your password if you believe your online account has been compromised. Some web-based services also allow you to enter your mobile phone number so that you can reset your password by text message. If you are given the option always choose to have a two-step authentication process.

You're never invisible on the internet

You are not invisible or anonymous on the internet, even if it feels like you are. Internet users always leave evidence, the so called ‘cybertrails' or ‘digital footprints', when they go online. Every computer has an IP address and this is often the key to finding out who sent specific information. This is actually good: if people commit crimes on the internet the police or other competent authorities can trace this evidence and catch the perpetrator.

Create safe proļ¬les

Your online profile is an ideal way letting your friends know what's going on in your life. You can change your status to reflect your mood, share personal information and illustrate your stories with pictures and movies. As the data on your profile is private, it's better to limit the access to your published online information: for example, only allow your best friends and family to see your personal data.
If you do decide to open up your profile to strangers, however, make sure you are as careful online as you are in the offline physical world. Never publish private information that could be used or abused by someone with bad intentions. This might include information such as your real name, address and phone number and the name of your school. It is important to remember that you already have an online reputation, a digital footprint that will follow you throughout your life. Material that you post online now could still be visible in 10 years time and may not represent you in the way you would like – again it is important to think before you post! How would you feel if a prospective employer or a university, a parent or grandparent, or possibly even your own children one day, saw what is published online about you?
Remember, you can always contact your national helpline
for support and advice on any online issue.