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Protecting personal information


Personal information is any information that identifies an individual. Personal information includes full name, address, date of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, usernames and passwords, bank details, student identity card details or passport details.

Online, personal information is used by many businesses to verify a user’s identity. While personal information can be safely disclosed to many legitimate businesses, if not managed carefully, it can be accessed and misused by criminals. It can also be used by marketers who may send spam through email or SMS.

Disclosing personal information online can also impact on a user’s ‘digital reputation’. A Digital reputation is the opinion that others hold about people based on what they do and say online.

The following general tips will help parents protect personal information for your child online.

Young Children

The following guidelines are a useful starting point to teach young children to interact safely and responsibly online.

  1. At this age children’s internet use should still be closely monitored. To help with this try to keep the computer in a shared or visible place in the home.
  2. Be aware of how your child uses the internet and explore it with them. Explore their favourite sites and help them bookmark a list of ‘Favourites’. Check whether personal information is required to sign up any of their favourite websites or games and help your child sign up and use privacy settings safely if you feel it is appropriate.
  3. Talk to your child about personal information and why it is special. This sort of information can be used to identify or locate where they live, go to school or activities in which they are involved.
  4. Set rules make sure your child knows what information they can share or post online and which websites they can visit. Telling a trusted adult before posting any personal information online, including for competition entry is a useful rule.
  5. Consider creating a family ‘fun’ email account that can be used for competition entries and other activities. This account will be separate to all other personal accounts so it can easily be deleted if it is misused.

Older Children

The following general guidelines are a useful starting point to teach older children to use their personal information safely and responsibly online.

  1. At this age children’s internet use should still be closely monitored. To help with this try to keep the computer in a shared or visible place in the home.
  2. Be aware of how your child uses the internet and explore it with them. Explore their favourite sites and help them bookmark a list of ‘Favourites’. Check whether personal information is required to sign up any of their favourite websites or games and help your child sign up and use privacy settings safely if you feel it is appropriate.
  3. Talk to your child about personal information and why it is special. This sort of information is information that can be used to identify or locate them and where they live, go to school or join in activities.
  4. Set rules—make sure your child knows what information they can share or post online and which websites they can visit. Telling a trusted adult before posting any personal information online, including for competition entry is a useful rule.
  5. Remind your child that not everybody online is who they say they are and encourage them to be cautious when sharing information.
  6. Help your child to create screen names or IDs that do not communicate their gender, age, name or location.
  7. Consider creating a family ‘fun’ email account that can be used for competition entries and other activities. This account will be separate to all other personal accounts so it can easily be deleted if it is misused.

Teenagers

The following tips can help teens manage their personal information safely and responsibly.

  1. Remind your teen that not everyone is who they claim to be. Although they may enjoy having many online friends, adding people that they don’t know on ‘friends lists’ allows those people to learn all about them. This information could be used for scams, to steal their identity or worse.
  2. Talk to your teen about managing personal information on social networking sites.
  3. Encourage them not to put any personal information on their profiles. This includes their phone number, personal email address, home or school addresses, or the name of their school.
  4. Encourage your teen to be careful when they post photos that they are not accidentally providing clues to personal information such as their school uniform.
  5. Encourage your teen to set up a separate email account for use when signing up to games or websites. This account will be separate to all other personal accounts so they can disable it if it’s misused. It should not include their names or other identifiers in the address.
  6. They might also like to set up a separate social networking account if they want to promote themselves or an interest and engage with likeminded people that they don’t know offline. They should ensure the site does not contain their personal information.
  7. Encourage your teen to read user agreements and privacy policies to determine how their personal information may be used when signing up to services as many organizations use information for their own marketing and some sell it to other marketing firms.
  8. Remind your teen that they should only disclose financial information on websites that they trust and that have secure payment facilities identified by a web address beginning with https:// and a ‘locked’ padlock symbol in the bottom of the screen, which indicates that data is being encrypted.
  9. Remind your teen that banking institutions will never email individuals asking for their user name or password. If they receive an email from an organisation claiming to represent a banking institution they should report the email to the bank.

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