Your digital footprint

With every new profile, photo or comment we post, we add to a trail of information about ourselves which stays online. This has been called a ‘digital footprint’.

People who know us, and people who don’t, can see our digital footprints and learn more about us.

Our digital footprints can show us in our most positive moments – but sometimes they might reflect thoughts or experiences that we later wish had been kept private.

Some  celebrities have been criticised for making offensive comments on social media - even when they were posted years before they became famous.

It can be really hard to keep on top of all the things we post online. Taking a moment before posting to consider a few of the things mentioned in the list below could help.

Three things to consider before posting

  1. Who can see my tracks?

    When you share something online, who can see it? Think about who you’re sharing with and whether they’ll take care of what you share. Don’t forget it’s easy for other people to copy what you share, change it and pass it on without you knowing.

  2. Am I giving away too much?

    The more you share publicly, the more people can learn about you. Sadly, mean people sometimes use things they’ve found out about someone online to bully them, or to pretend they know them better than they really do.

  3. Am I giving away too much?

    The more you share, the more people can learn about you. Could they use your posts to bully you?

  4. Does it hurt, embarrass or offend others?

    It’s important to think about whether what you post online could hurt others. Do you have your friend’s permission to share that funny picture of them? Could that jokey comment you posted hurt someone’s feelings?

Safer sharing

Sharing what you’re up to and things you’ve done with your friends is part of the fun of being online, so make sure you know how to do it safely.

  • Mind your privacy.

    Most websites, apps and social networks you can share information on have ‘privacy settings’. These help you control what you share and who you share it with. So, if you decide your friends, friends of friends or everyone can see what you post.

  • Choose your friends wisely.

    It’s always best to only share with friends you know and trust. Remember too that what your friends share about you and their privacy settings online will also affect you and your digital footprint.

  • Check your tracks.

    It can be hard to keep up with the things we’ve done online. It's a good idea to log out of your accounts, and Google yourself now and again. That way you’ll know what other people can find out about you, as well as things others might have posted about you. Review your profiles on any accounts you use too. Delete or change anything you no longer want people to see.

  • Shut down or delete. 

    If you stop using a website, app or social network remember to shut down your profile or delete your account. Don’t forget to delete the app if you downloaded it to your device too.

Worried about something you’ve shared?

It’s so easy to share online, that sometimes you might post something and wish you hadn’t.

If you’ve posted something you regret, it’s best to delete it from your account as soon as you can.

If someone else has posted something about you, most websites, apps and social networks have a way for you to report ‘content’ – like videos, pictures, comments or profiles – that upsets you. This is called making a ‘report’.

It’s important to know that making a report doesn’t mean the content will definitely be removed. Content will only be taken down if it breaks the ‘terms of use’.

Just like in school, most websites, apps and social networks have a set of rules which they expect people to follow. For example, Facebook calls their rules ‘Community Standards’, YouTube’s rules are called ‘Community Guidelines’.

If you want to have something removed, you should check to see if it breaks one of their rules. You should learn what the rules are before using any website, app or social network. They will tell you what isn’t, acceptable and how to report unacceptable content.

Find out how to report to popular social sites here

Talk to someone

Childline

Childline is a free helpline for children and young people up to the age of 19. You can contact ChildLine about anything. No problem is too big or too small. Whatever your worry, it's better out than in.

ChildLine is a private and confidential service. Confidential means not telling anyone else what you’ve said. This means that whatever you say, stays between you and ChildLine.

They would only need to tell someone else if:

  • You ask them to
  • They believe your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger
  • You are being hurt by someone in a position of trust who has access to other children like a teacher or police officer
  • You tell them that you are seriously harming another young person

Call them on 0800 1111. The number won’t appear on your phone bill. Or you can also visit www.childline.org.uk to speak to a counsellor online.

Report it

If someone is trying to use what you've posted online to hurt you, or makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or even frightened online you should tell an adult you trust, or report to CEOP. Whatever may have happened, you won’t be in trouble.

CEOP

CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them.

If you’ve met someone online, or face to face, and they are putting you under pressure to have sex, asking to share images or making you feel uncomfortable you should report to CEOP.

This might be someone:

  • Making you have sex when you donʼt want to
  • Chatting about sex online
  • Asking you to meet up face to face if youʼve only met them online
  • Asking you to do sexual things on camera
  • Asking for sexual pictures of you
  • Making you feel worried, anxious or unsafe

If this is happening to you, or you’re worried that it might be, you can report this to CEOP

www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre