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Seven steps to protecting your privacy online

Seven steps to protecting your privacy online

The things we share online can have real-world consequences, but it’s easy to forget this. And sometimes we don’t even realise how much of our personal content is visible to other people online.

It’s always worth taking a few minutes to do an online privacy check, so we can deal with any unwanted items before they become a big problem.

As parents, we can encourage our teens to check their privacy and support them if anything negative pops up. We can also set a good example by checking our own privacy online and talking to our teens about it. We might be surprised at some of our own content that’s out there!

To strengthen your privacy online, consider the following.

Google yourself

Type your name into a search engine, along with some of your details, such as where you live, study or work. Check past the first page and check ‘images’ too.

If you’re not happy with something you find you can:

  • tighten the privacy settings on your social media
  • ask the person who posted the item to take it down
  • try to un-tag yourself
  • report any cyber bullying to the website where it happened or the eSafety Commissioner.

You can even set up a Google Alert which sends you an email whenever any new content is uploaded containing your name.

Consider ditching your old social media

If you have social media accounts you’ve stopped using, think about whether it’s time to delete them, especially if there’s stuff on there that doesn’t represent who you are these days.

Deleting content doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone – for example, someone could have copied it or taken a screenshot. But getting rid of old, out-of-date accounts helps us to control what people see about us online.

Get tips on deleting and deactivating accounts here.

Keep your usernames discreet

Do you interact on social media or gaming sites with people you don’t know and trust face to face? If so, make sure your username does not include things like your name, date of birth, or where you live.

For example, CustardDonut5000 is a pretty anonymous username, while GregSyd95 is not.

Your username should not be racy or rude and it definitely should not be anyone else’s name!

Stop apps from tracking you

Go to the ‘settings’ function on your device and check which apps have permission to use GPS to track your location. Turn off any ones you don’t want following you around.

GPS tracking can be especially risky if there is someone in your life who is trying to control or abuse you. Learn about turning off location tracking here and contact 1800 RESPECT if you need help.

Update your passwords

Every device and account should have one. They should be unique and known only to you.

Your passwords should not contain anything obvious like your name, birthday, pets, phone number, the website where you use it, or combinations like 0000 or 1234.

Learn how to create a strong password here.

Tighten your privacy on social media

It’s smart to choose the highest privacy settings for games, apps and social media. Check the eSafety Guide for tips.

And look through your online friends and followers. Are these all people you know and trust face to face? If not, think about whether you really want them to see your posts, especially if your posts contain clues about where you live, work and play.

If you post items from your local sporting club or café, or pics of yourself in your uniform or work badge, a person looking at your posts could learn a lot about you. Think about whether you’re comfortable with this.

Get help if you need it

You can report abusive or bullying material to the website where it happened or the eSafety Commissioner.

If someone has stolen your identity or your money online, contact Scamwatch and your bank.

If you’re upset by something you’ve found, speak to a close friend, a trusted GP, or a free helpline such as Dolly’s Dream support line 0488 881 033, Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800, Parentline in your state or territory, or Lifeline 13 11 14.