Keep personal information on a need-to-know basis

Not every message should be shouted from the rooftops. It’s important to think before you share, since public content can be copied, re-shared and spread around the web by anyone who finds it. Talk to your family about protecting their personal information online, then help them share what they want and protect what they don’t. Some services, like Google+, have stricter sharing settings for teen users than for adults, but many services can be customized to fit the needs of each family member. Talk with your family about what types of information they can share publicly, what might be better to share with just a few close friends, and what should stay private.

Advice from our partners

Common Sense Media

  1. Keep personal information private. Help kids define what information is important for them to keep private when they're online. Don't share anything personally identifiable—addresses, phone numbers, birth dates—and turn off location services on your phone and apps so you don't inadvertently advertise your location.
  2. Use strict privacy settings. Privacy settings aren’t infallible, but they're a good start. Shut down any public sharing (where whatever you post is available for anyone on the Internet to see), and restrict your audience to known friends. Review the privacy settings on your kid's social networks, and make sure they use them!
  3. Self-reflect before you self-reveal. It’s up to kids to protect themselves by thinking twice before they post something that could damage their reputation or that someone else could use to embarrass or hurt them. Recruiters, college admissions, and other people you might want to impress routinely Google your name before calling you in.


  1. Communicate with your child about protecting their personal information online. We only have one identity, so help your child understand its value and the importance of protecting it. The information children should keep private doesn’t deviate much over the course of growing up. This includes the information required to open a new bank account such as: birth place and dates, home addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, driver's license, and Social Security number.
  2. Search your name. Together with your child, Google search the names of family and friends to see if they already have a digital footprint and learn what it says about them. You can also do a separate image and video search. Help your child understand the importance and learn how to create a positive reputation rather than a liability. This includes creating user names and screen names that protect privacy and build a positive reputation.
  3. Check the privacy settings. Sit down together and review the privacy settings on the social networking sites used by your family (e.g., YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr). Teach them how to share a post or a photo with a limited group of friends and how to untag themselves in a photo. Be clear about your expectation of when to turn off features that tell apps and websites their location. Emphasize to your child the importance of creating memorable, strong passwords.