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Privacy and Security Online

Protecting Your Child’s Online Identity

Once your child starts using the internet, social media, and other apps on devices, they need to learn to be cautious about sharing their personal information online in order to protect themselves and their online identity. 

Two important things we must consider are: 

  • Your child’s digital footprint – encouraging them to maintain a positive identity online
  • Your child’s security online – creating strong passwords and managing privacy settings in order to secure what they post online 
  • To manage their “digital footprint,” your child can get in the habit of using a search engine such as Google, to search for themselves on a regular basis and see what information about them is easily available.   

What is a Digital Footprint?

A Digital Footprint or your child’s online identity, refers to the traces left by online activity. It typically includes:

  • What you post on social media or to blogs
  • What others post about you on social media 
  • Photos or videos you post, or others post of you online (photo sharing sites, social media)
  • Comments you leave on posts, blogs, videos or photos, on social media or online sites
  • News stories that mention your name 
  • When you create an account on an app or website 
  • When you fill out an online form for contests 
  • Keep in mind, these are the things that may be available when someone searches your name. Most search engines, social networks, and websites you use also keep a record of everything you do on them.  

Maintaining a Positive Identity Online

It is important for parents and children to remember that: 

“the internet never forgets.” 

It can be difficult to have content removed from websites and social media profiles, and you cannot always prevent others from using what you post without your consent or knowledge.

So, it is essential that we: 

“Think Before we Post”.

When we encourage our children to pause and think before they post a picture, video, link, or other content, especially about or including others – we can help our children develop empathy and ethical thinking by getting them to imagine how their post might make others feel and impact their online reputation.

Protecting Other People’s Privacy Online

It is also up to your child to protect other’s online identities. When your child “likes”, tags, comments on, and shares content their friends’ post (especially photos and videos), they are contributing either positively or negatively to their friends’ digital footprints. It is important that they learn to respect others’ privacy and not share things that will embarrass or bring negative consequences to others. As a parent, you can set a good example by getting into the habit of asking your child’s permission before you post pictures of them, so they develop an understanding that their privacy is valuable.

Before your child shares friends’ posts, encourage your child to ask themselves the following questions: 

  • Do I have my friend’s permission (or consent) to share the picture, video, or post? 
  • Would my friend, who sent this post to me, want the contents of this post to be shared widely (with many people)?
  • Would this post (picture, video, text, etc) bring negative consequences for my friend if I shared it? How would sharing the post impact my friend’s digital footprint? 

Protecting Your Child’s Personal Information and Privacy Online

  • Ensuring your child knows / understands what is personal information
  • Reminding your child to not include personal information in pictures or videos, and other posts 
  • Encouraging your children to check with you before creating profiles and online accounts, or entering online contests
  • Encouraging your child to tell a trusted adult if anyone online asks them their name, how old they are, where they live, or for any other personal information. 
  • Using browser extensions or plugins like Adblock Plus or Privacy Badger
  • Turning off GPS and Bluetooth on any portable devices
  • Disabling the microphone or camera on laptops (when they are not in use) 

Creating Secure Passwords

A password is like a toothbrush! It should not be shared with others! And it should be changed often!Help your child create a strong password using the following criteria:

  • Create a password at least 8 characters long 
  • Base the password on a word or phrase that has no personal connection 
  • Upper Case letter (A through Z) 
  • Lower Case letter (a through z)
  • Numbers (0 through 9) 
  • üSpecial Character (such as !, $, #, %) 

Encourage your child to use a unique password for each app or site you log into! And remind them to make sure they log out of all their accounts before they leave a computer, so that the next person who uses it cannot pretend to be them.

Social Media Privacy Settings

On an app or a website, have your child look for an option such as: My Account or Settings. This is where you will find privacy and security settings that will let your child:

  • Create a strong password
  • Change the default privacy settings
  • Limit what information is visible in your profile including who can view posts, photos, videos, and links shared 
  • Tag and un-tag a post or photo
  • Report someone else’s post or photo that may be inappropriate, to the people who run the site
  • Block specific people from being able to view your profile or contact you

It is important that you, as a parent, are aware of the Terms of Service and/or Privacy Policy for the Social Media app or website, specifically what the site is allowed to do with content and images your child posts.  

You should also be aware of the age requirement for an account on the site – if your child experiences an issue on the app or site, if they are underage, they may not receive the same protections as a user who meets the age requirement.

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