Privacy and your child

A guide for parents and carers about how to understand the risks

You can help your child to stay in control of their personal information, online photos and social media identity.

On this page:

 

 

 

What are the risks?

When your child shares information like their phone number, personal email address, the name of their school, or home address online, there is a risk it could be used in ways they may not have thought about.

Personal information gathered online can be misused and result in things like spam, scams, fraud, unwanted contact and grooming or even identity theft.

Photos of your child that are posted online or shared through social networks might end up travelling more widely than intended or they could be ‘harvested’ from social media or other websites and used for unintended purposes.

It is important that your child is aware of where and how information that identifies them is available online. They should also think about who can access it, what others may be doing with their information and the impression they are leaving for others to find.

 

How can I protect my child’s privacy when they are online?

Whatever the age of your child

 

Get involved and explore the online world alongside them

  • Sit down together and check privacy settings on social media accounts, apps and devices — ensure they have selected the highest privacy setting. Learn how in taming the technology or explore the eSafety Guide for links to help you understand and adjust privacy settings.
  • Play alongside them in online games to see what kinds of information they may be sharing. Get to know the apps and devices your child is using. If you would like to learn more about individual apps, games or services, check the eSafety Guide.
 

Respect their privacy yourself

 

If you are concerned that a photo or video of your child has been posted online without your permission, ask for it to be removed

  • As a first step, you can ask the person who posted the photo or video to remove it. If the person refuses, or you do not know who posted it or do not feel able to contact the person, you may wish to report the content to the site or social media service it was posted on.
  • Visit our eSafety Guide for more information about contacting or reporting material to social media services.
  • If the photo has been posted through your child’s school or a sporting club or other group, contact the organisation directly to raise your concerns. They should be able to refer you to their social media policy, which should provide details about the type of photos that can be posted, the way they will be used and how they obtain consent from parents or carers.

And depending on your child’s age

Toddlers and preschoolers (0 to 5)

Kids and teenagers (5 to 17)

 

Advise them not to share personal information unnecessarily

  • Explain why they should avoid putting personal information on their social media profiles. This includes their phone number, date of birth, personal email address, passwords, home address, the name or address of their school, and photos of identifying landmarks.
  • Help them understand that when online games, competitions, prizes and rewards require users to register and provide personal information like email address, interests, age and gender, this information is often used by marketers to promote products and services.
 

Encourage good password habits

  • Remind them to select passwords carefully and not to share these with friends.
  • Strong passwords are truly random and they are long. Avoid using words and numbers that could be easily associated with them (like a pet’s name or a birth date). Longer passwords are harder to crack, so help them choose a random combination of numbers, letters and punctuation, and consider using a password manager. For more information see protect your personal information, which includes tips on how to set strong passwords.
  • Ensure your child’s mobile devices have pin locks or passcodes, so their personal information is safer if they lose their device.
 

Remind them about their digital reputation

  • Like everyone who uses the internet, over time your child is building a digital or online reputation based on all the things they say and do online. Help them understand that this digital footprint can last forever.
  • Remind them to take care of their digital reputation as well as the reputations of others. They should not post images of others without their permission and should take care when making comments about others.
 

Encourage them to think before they post or share

  • Even if their profile is set to private, they cannot control what their friends will do with the information that they post online or share via text or SMS. Ask how they would feel if their photo or information was shared with strangers.
  • Talk to your child about the consequences of posting offensive or inappropriate material of themselves or others online. Explain that it may affect their social life, academic results or job prospects. There may also be legal effects. Ask them, how they would feel if they could not get a job they really wanted because of something they posted online? For more information on how to start the chat, see the hard-to-have conversations.
 

Be aware of online advertising

  • Companies can build a profile of your child by compiling data of their online behaviour. You can control cookies and use add-ons and adblockers to help manage the amount of information companies can collect.
 

Help them understand about sexual images and the law

  • Explain that they may be committing a criminal offence when taking and/or sharing sexual images of themselves or others who are under the age of 18.
  • As an adult, be very cautious if you have intercepted any content that may constitute child sexual abuse material. Do not interact with the information, forward or share it in any way. Immediately seek guidance from your local police.
  • You can find more advice on this in sharing nudes and sexting.
 

Can I safely share photos of my kids online?

This advice draws on an article written for eSafety by Associate Professor Amanda Third, University of Western Sydney.

 

Involve your child

 

Think before you share

  • Avoid sharing photos and videos that contain personal details, such as full names, personal contact information, or uniforms that identify particular schools or locations.
  • Avoid adding comments to photos that identify locations, for example street addresses, the name of your child’s school, or even identifying features in front of your home.
  • Ensure schedules of children’s activities are not shared online.
  • Only share with people you really know and trust. Rather than posting to all of your friends on social media, you can be selective and use the privacy settings on your social media platform. Also, be aware that if one of your friends likes your picture, it may also become visible to their friends.
  • Always check with other parents before posting, sharing or tagging images that include their children.
  • Remember that the information and photos you share contribute to your child’s digital reputation.
 

Be mindful of metadata and geo-location

  • Most digital photos contain information about the time, date and GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken. Some social media platforms automatically hide or remove this data, so double-check and find out how much information you are sharing.
  • Check the location settings on your device to know which apps are using geo-location and turn them off or limit the function.
 

Understand that photos and videos posted on social media sites may become the property of the site owners

  • Some social media sites give themselves the rights to copy and use your photos and videos. Their Terms and Conditions or a Statement of Rights and Responsibilities should outline how they manage sharing your photos, videos and information. Review these terms carefully before making any decisions on whether you consent to photos of your child being posted.
  • For more information about protecting personal information in individual apps, games or services, see the eSafety Guide.
 

Check before you take photos or videos of your child at school or club events, or in places where there are other people involved

  • At school or club events, the organisation should be able to provide details of their social media policy or photography/recording policy.
  • In public places it’s generally okay to take a photo unless you do so in a way that is offensive or creates a nuisance for those around you.
  • When an event takes place at a private place people can enforce rules about photography, so you should consider gaining consent before taking photos and videos.
 

Consider ways to share photos and videos other than social media

Other ways that may give you more control when sharing photos and videos include:

  • sharing photos by email
  • using a secure online service (secure online facility enabling organisations to authorise access through secure passwords)
  • multimedia messaging service (a standard way to send messages that include photos and videos over a cellular network)

Involve your kids in decisions to share their photos

Associate Professor Amanda Third

Involving your child in taking and sharing photos of them can be a great learning experience as well as demonstrating what respectful behaviour looks like.

Explain why you would like to take a photo of your child, and ask them whether it is OK. Something like: ‘I’m proud of you riding your bike. I’d really like to take a photo so we can remember this moment. Is that OK?’

The next step is to talk to your child about how, why and with whom you would like to share the image — and ask them if it is OK. For example, ‘I would like to share this photo with your grandparents because they are so excited that you can ride your bike all by yourself. Is it OK if I post it online for them to see?’

Involve your child in the process of sharing their image online if possible. Get them to help you choose which image/s to share. Ask who they would like to share it with. Use this process as an opportunity to talk about who it is appropriate to share with and why. You can also explain how they can choose who to share images with — for example, by sharing images to select groups on Facebook or Instagram.

If your child would rather you did not share their pictures, you could say you are disappointed (explaining why) but respect their decision because this is about modelling appropriate behaviour for your kids.

 

Get help and support

Parentline: counselling and support for parents

Kids Helpline: counselling and online support for kids and teenagers

eheadspace: online chat and support for young people (12 to 25)

Raising Children Network: resources and information on development, learning and health relevant to children

See also our online safety and wellbeing directory.

 

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