Private Parts: Online Privacy and Your Digital Footprint 31/08/2021

Private Parts: Online Privacy and Your Digital Footprint

Welcome to KC’s first instalment of ‘Private Parts…’ where we’ll be taking a deep dive into things like staying safe online, looking after your mental health, fake news and sexual consent. We’re kicking off this series with something you probably already know a little bit about; Online Privacy and Your Digital Footprint.

Every time you go online, you leave a footprint of where you’ve been and what you’ve done…

What is your digital footprint?

Whenever you visit a website, share a photo or make a comment online, you leave a digital footprint that other people can see. Your digital footprint includes all the information you share or that’s collected about you online, and there can be a lot of it.

Lots of the information you share can be seen by other people. It can be used to target adverts at you, or it could be seen by a potential employer years later. Sometimes people can use the details you share to work out your identity.

Your footprint can be both good and bad. It could show things you’re embarrassed about later, or help people to see your skills or things you’re proud of.

7 things that could be part of your digital footprint
  1. Photos and posts on social media
  2. Data collected on fitness trackers and smart watches
  3. Games you’ve played online
  4. Things you’ve bought
  5. Information you allow apps to collect or access
  6. Voice searches on Alexa or other devices
  7. Comments or arguments you’ve been in

Tips to protect your online privacy

Whether you want to protect your privacy or leave a positive digital footprint, we’ve got advice for you.

Change your privacy settings

Lots of social media sites will set your account to public by default. Changing your privacy settings lets you control who can see your posts and whether they’ll appear on search engines

Think before you post

You never know who’ll see photos, videos or comments you put online so think about how others might react before you post anything. Even apps like Snapchat can be screenshotted and shared. Never share your address, phone number or the name of your school online.

Delete content you don’t want online

Posted something you regret? There are lots of ways to delete things about you online. It can help to close or delete old social media accounts you don’t use anymore as well.

Search your name

Typing your name or your username into a search engine can help you find what’s easily available about you online. Remember, if you can find it then so can other people.

Check what data your device is collecting

Devices like phones, fitness trackers or wearables can collect data about you without you realising. Every device is different so search online to find out if your data is being used.

Set permissions for apps and websites

Lots of apps will ask for permission to use your data when you install them, including things like your contacts, photos and messages. Be careful about what you agree to and pick apps and browsers that protect your privacy. When you visit sites and you’re asked whether you accept cookies, make sure you check what the website says about how they’ll use them before you agree.

Deleting things you've shared online

Some things you post online can be easily deleted, but not everything. It can depend on who posted and where it’s been shared. If you’re not sure whether you can take something down, there lots of things you can try.

Ask the website or app to delete it

Lots of social media sites will let you take posts, images and videos down after you’ve posted them. Usually you can do this by visiting the help area of the website or by searching online for instructions you can follow.

Some websites and apps will let you delete your account. It can be good to do this for accounts you don’t use anymore or if you’ve posted things you’re worried about

Change your privacy settings

If you use websites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you can change your privacy settings to only allow your friends or followers to see your posts.

After that, check your friends list to see whether you know and trust everyone on it. Some people have separate accounts on social media, one for their ‘public’ online life and one that’s only for their trusted friends.

People sharing nude images or videos of you

Sharing naked or sexual photos of videos of you without your consent is against the law. And if you’re under 18, it’s against the law for anyone to have a sexual image or video of you at all.

You can use Report Remove to get a nude image or video of you removed from the internet. You can also report any sexual images or videos posted of you to the websites or apps and most of them will take them down.

It can also be against the law to threaten to share someone’s nudes. If you’re worried about what’s happening, please talk to someone about it.

Edit what you can't remove

If you can’t delete things, see if you can edit them. You might be able to take out something you’ve said or remove any personal details.

Things posted or shared by other people

You can’t always control whether something posted by another person is taken down, but there are things you can try.

If something’s been shared or posted by your friends or family, you can try asking them to delete it. It can help to be assertive and explain why you want it taken down and how it’s affecting you.

If someone’s bullying or being nasty to you online, you might also be able to report what’s happened to get it taken down.

Ask search engines to remove your links

You can contact search engines like Google and Bing and ask if they’ll be able to remove something.

Look at each search engine’s help section to find out how you can contact them. You can fill in a form on Google. Bing also have a form to fill in. You need a photo of yourself to send with these forms. You might find it helpful to ask an adult to support you with filling them in. The search engine will decide whether or not to remove the link.

Changing your privacy settings

Lots of apps and sites will set your profile to public automatically, which means that anyone can see what you’ve posted.

Changing your privacy settings can help to keep you safe, here’s how:


Snaps automatically disappear after they’re sent but they can still be screenshotted so it’s important to be careful.

To change your privacy settings on Snapchat, go to your profile and tap the gear icon. Scroll down to “Who can…”:

  • Contact me: select friends only
  • View my story: select friends only
  • See my location: choose ghost mode
  • Show me in quick: add Turn this off.

It can also help to remember:

  • to block people you don’t know who add you, including friends of friends

if you’re in a group chat, anyone in the group can talk to you and see your messages.


Instagram sets your account to public automatically, which means that anyone can see what you do or post.

If your account is private, you can approve who can see your photos and videos, and only people who you’ve approved can comment on your posts.

To set your account as private:

  • go to your profile and tap menu (the 3 horizontal lines)
  • tap settings
  • Scroll down and select Privacy
  • scroll down to Private Account and turn this on.

Remember that you can still block and report anyone who is bullying you on Instagram


WhatsApp will automatically allow people to see what’s on your profile and when you were last on. Changing your privacy settings can help to keep you safe and stop people bullying or abusing you.

To change your settings:

  • go to your settings and select Account
  • Select privacy.

You can change the following settings:

  • Last seen
    You can change this to My Contacts to stop people you don’t know seeing if you’ve been online.
  • Profile photo and info about you
    Setting this to My Contacts can help to keep people you don’t know seeing information about you.
  • Live location
    If you’re sharing your location with anyone, you can turn this off here.


Your Tik Tok account is set to public automatically, that means that anyone can view or comment on your videos. It also means that people can search for your account on Tik Tok.

Change your privacy settings:

  • go to your profile on the app
  • tap the 3 dots in the top right hand corner
  • select Privacy and Safety.

Changing these settings can help to keep your account safe:

  • Allow others to find me
    Turning this off can help to stop people you don’t know from seeing your profile.
  • Private account
    When your account is private, only people you approve can see your videos and follow you.
  • Who can send me comments
    Setting this to friends only can stop people you don’t know posting nasty comments or pressuring you.


There are lots of privacy settings on Facebook but there are a few simple steps you can make to help keep you safer. You can also use Facebook’s privacy check-up to get started.

Changing your privacy setting in the Facebook app

  • tap the menu icon (3 horizontal lines)
  • scroll down to Settings and Privacy
  • tap Privacy shortcuts.

Important things to change on Facebook

  • Who can see your posts
    Change the default to Friends for your future posts. If you’re worried about people you’re friends with seeing what you’ve written, you can select “Friends except” to choose who you don’t want included. You can change who can see your past posts as well.
  • People and pages that you follow
    Change this to friends only or to “Friends except” if there’s someone you’re friends with who you don’t want included.
  • Friends requests
    You can choose either everyone or friends of friends. Remember that even if someone is a friend of a friend, it doesn’t mean you can trust them.
  • Search engines linking to your profile
    Turning this off will stop people being able to search for you on sites like Google.
  • Check what info is on your profile
    Make sure your phone number, school and address can’t be seen publicly. Remember that if you’re wearing something with your school logo then they can see where you go to school.
  • Facebook live
    Only live stream to friends and don’t share your location.


Your tweets are set to public automatically, this means that anyone can reply, retweet or favourite what you tweet.

If you protect your tweets, people won’t be able to retweet you, and they can only view what you tweet if you approve them to follow you.

To protect your tweets:

  • go to your account and select Settings and Privacy
  • Select Privacy and safety
  • Turn on “Protect your Tweets”.

Keeping your information secure

Some things you post online can be easily deleted, but not everything. It can depend on who posted and where it’s been shared. If you’re not sure whether you can take something down, there lots of things you can try.

Use strong passwords

A strong password means that it’s hard for someone else to guess or for a computer to crack. Some people use password managers to store all of their passwords, but these can cost money and aren’t always secure so you need to be careful.

Use our tips for creating a strong password.

  • Make it long and difficult to guess
    Make your password more than 8 characters and use a mix of lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers and special characters (like %, #, ! and £).
  • Don’t use personal details
    People might be able to guess your favourite animal, your birthday or your best friend’s name. Try using 3-4 random words that you can remember instead.
  • Use different passwords
    Change your password regularly and use completely different passwords for different websites and apps.

Set up two-factor authentication

2-factor authentication adds another layer of security to your password by asking for another piece of information. For example, you might need to enter your password and then enter a code you’re sent via text message. It’s much more secure as passwords can be guessed or cracked.

Lots of apps and sites let you use 2-factor authentication, and you should choose to use it whenever you can.

Keep your apps and devices up to date

Device and app updates include important security fixes, so it’s good to make sure you regularly download updates for your:

  • phone, tablet, laptop and computer
  • apps and games
  • wearables, including fitness trackers and smart watches
  • smart devices and speakers like Alexa or Google Home.

Each device is different, but you can usually find out how to enable updates in the settings.

It’s also important to use anti-virus software. You can get anti-virus software for mobiles as well as tablets, laptops and PCs. Make sure that you keep it updated or ask an adult to help you.

Edit what you can't remove

If you can’t delete things, see if you can edit them. You might be able to take out something you’ve said or remove any personal details.

Make sure you log out when using shared devices

Lots of websites will keep you logged in, even after you close them. If someone else has access to the phone or device you’re using then they might be able to log into your account.

If you’re using someone else’s device or someone else might have access to yours, make sure you:

Be care what websites you're using

There are lots of websites that will try to trick you or pretend to be something else.

Make sure any website you’re using has “https” at the start of the address so that you know it’s secure. Only enter your log in details when you’re absolutely sure it’s the right website, that the address is correct and it’s using https (at the front of the link in your browser bar).

Getting more support

If you’re worried, please make sure you talk to someone; whether it’s a parent, friend or one of KC’s Safeguarding Team

You can also check out some of the other resources below:

Safeguarding Umbrella
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