Social networking safely

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Some people use social networking sites to threaten, harrass or embarras others. Criminals are also using social networking sites to access personal information and steal identities. Criminals may also attempt to use personal information to facilitate other illegal activities in the real word.
To get the most out of social networking sites you have to submit personal information about yourself. But it is important to remember that social networking sites will often offer you options to control the type of information you share with other users and options to manage the people you want to interact with. It is important to be careful about what personal information you put online and who you accept as your ‘friend’.

Here are some steps to help protect you when using social network sites:
  • set your online profile to private and be discerning about who you accept as your ‘friend’
  • protect your accounts with strong passwords
  • have a different password for each social networking site so that if one password is stolen, not all of your accounts will be at risk
  • think before you post – expect that people other than your friends can see the information you post online
  • don’t post information that would make you or your family vulnerable – such as your date of birth, address, information about your daily routine, holiday plans, or your children’s schools
  • don’t post photos of you or your family and friends that may be inappropriate – or that your family and friends haven’t agreed to being posted
  • never click on suspicious links – even if they are from your friends – they may have inadvertently sent them to you
  • be wary of strangers – people are not always who they say they are. It’s a good idea to limit the number of people you accept as friends
  • always type your social networking website address into your browser or use a bookmark.

For more information about check out:
  • Australian Communication and Media Authorities (ACMA) Online Social Networking site.
  • Cybernetrix
  • Australian Government's Stay Smart Onlinesite. The Australian Government’s cyber security website provides information for Australian internet users on the simple steps they can take to protect their personal and financial information online.
  • The Alanana and Madeline Foundation e-smart site

If you suspect any fraudulent use of your identity you should report it to your social networking service provider and your local police.

If you have been harassed or bullied on a social networking site, go to advice and tips. Thinkuknow is an Internet safety program that has been developed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Microsoft Australia for parents, careres and teachers of secondary and primary aged students.
Smart online Safe Online Encourages students to take a stand on cyber bullying and shows them how to be safe.
If you are concerned about online behaviour that involves sexual exploitation or other criminal activity, you should report this to your local police, or phone CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.
If you come across content that you think may be prohibited under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, report it to the ACMA at


Dealing with cyber bullying

Like other forms of bullying such as verbal abuse, social exclusion and physical aggression, cyber bullying may result in the targeted person developing social, psychological and educational issues. While cyber bullying is similar to ‘real life’ bullying it also differs in some ways:
  • it can occur 24/7 and a child can be targeted at home
  • it can involve harmful material being widely and rapidly sent to a large audience, for example, rumours and images can be posted on public forums
  • it can provide the bully with a sense of relative anonymity and distance from the target, so there is a lack of immediate feedback or consequences.

Here are some basic steps to help deal with cyber bullying:
  • Ignore it. Don’t respond to the bully. If they don’t get a response they may get bored and go away.
  • Block the person. This will stop you seeing messages or texts from a particular person.
  • Tell someone. Tell an adult you can trust. You may want to talk to your mum, dad or a brother or sister. Or you can contact the Cybersmart Online Helpline service, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, visit the Kids Helpline website.
  • Keep the evidence. This can be useful in tracking the bully down. Save texts, emails, online conversations or voicemails as evidence.

  • Report it to:
    • your school—they should have policies in place about bullying and cyberbullying.
    • your ISP and/or phone provider, or the website administrator— there are actions they can take to help.
    • the police—if there is a threat to your safety the police will help. Call Triple Zero (000) or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
  • Further information about cyber bullying is available at the Cybersmart website

Top tips

  • Make sure your computer is secure—follow the advice in the Secure your computer section of this website.
  • Set strong passwords, particularly for important online accounts and change them regularly—consider making a diary entry to remind yourself.
  • Stop and think before you share any personal or financial information—about you, your friends or family. Don’t disclose identity information (drivers licence, Medicare No, birth date, address) through email or online unless you have initiated the contact and you know the other person involved.
  • Don't give your email address out without needing to. Think about why you are providing it, what the benefit is for you and whether it will mean you are sent emails you don’t want.
  • Be very suspicious of emails from people you don’t know, particularly if they promise you money, good health or a solution to all your problems. The same applies for websites. Remember, anything that looks too good to be true usually is.
  • Limit the amount and type of identity information you post on social networking sites. Don’t put sensitive, private or confidential information on your public profile.
  • When shopping online use a secure payment method such as PayPal, BPay, or your credit card. Avoid money transfers and direct debit, as these can be open to abuse. Never send your bank or credit card details via email.
  • When using a public computer, don’t submit or access any sensitive information online. Public computers may have a keystroke logger installed which can capture your password, credit card number and bank details.

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Your Digital Footprint
A digital footprint is the data trace or trail left by someone's activity in a digital environment. Digital footprints are the capture in an electronic fashion of memories and moments and are built from the interaction with TV, mobile phone, World Wide Web, internet, mobile web and other digital devices and sensors. For more information about digital footprint check out the following articles Read more of this article here and Nine elements of Digital Citzenship.

For teachers, wanting to know more about Cyber safety, check out
The Living Sky School Division in Canada has developed and shared an excellent digital citizenship continuum for students, parents and teachers. Covering students from pre-K to year 12, this public document covers topics such as:
  • responsible use of information
  • safety
  • communication
  • education
  • access