You give me yours and I'll give you mine

It’s seen as the ultimate sign of trust amongst #BFF’s in the digital age: to share your passwords. Over a quarter of young people between 8-16 years old know the passwords of other people and nearly one third have used them to log into others’ devices or social media accounts—to snoop, post fake updates, change settings or replace pictures as a joke. But playing with someone’s online identity or accessing their most private data is no laughing matter.

We use social media to tell the world—or a select group of friends—what we’re up to.  But young people sometimes feel anxious wondering what their partner or friends are really up to online and, for some, sharing your password is the ultimate way of saying ’I have nothing to hide’. Sharing your password with friends can also fuel that excitement that comes with risky behaviour, because it’s generally not encouraged by adults. What adults may not understand is that there can be lots of different reasons for sharing your password.

I once had some friends change each other’s Facebook and Instagram passwords during their final exams. Letting their friend hold onto their password and ‘lock them out’ of their social media accounts would mean they’d have less distractions, and more time to focus on studying. When their exams were over they gave each other their new passwords and celebrated their holidays.

Unfortunately, not everyone’s password-sharing stories end quite as well. The sad reality is, sometimes you can’t trust even the closest people to you with something as personal and vital as a password. There are so many better ways to show you trust someone without putting yourself in such a vulnerable position.

A true friend or boyfriend/girlfriend wouldn’t pressure you into sharing something like that in the first place. Information and things we collate online are less stable than things we have in real life and much harder to control when they get out. Rather than sharing passwords, we should get a bit more creative about how we develop trust in relationships—here are a few starters for you.

5 things you can share instead of your password:

  1. Your first email address (you know, the embarrassing one with all the numbers)
  2. Your favourite Spotify playlist to dance to
  3. Your shower song (then actually sing it)
  4. That embarrassing baby photo
  5. Your aspirational bae.

If you have something even better to share instead of your password, tweet at the @eSafetyOffice!