Online issues and worries: online reputation and footprint
The things you post and what others post about you is your footprint. It can give you a good or bad online reputation.
What is online reputation and footprint?
Reputation is what other people think of you based on what you do and say. Online reputation is based on the things you do and say online.
A digital footprint is a mark that you leave behind when using the internet. The things you post and what others post about you is your footprint. It can give you a good or bad online reputation.
- photos and videos on social media
- comments or things you've written
- games you've played online
- things you've bought online
- voice searches on your smart devices
- information you've allowed apps and websites to access
- data collected from devices like smartwatches
Why is it so important?
Things you posted or shared years ago could be found and re-shared with your family, friends, school, college, university or employer.
Your online footprint means adverts can be targeted at you because of your likes, interests and online behaviour.
Personal information that's easily accessible online can be used to steal your identity.
Checking your online footprint
You know what you post online, but do you know what others post about you?
Every now and then, search your name (and any other names you use) on Google to see what information comes up. If you have a common name, try searching with other things, like the name of your school, your employer, or where you live.
You can set up Google Alerts on your phone and get an email every time your name appears in a Google search results page.
How to keep yourself safe
Be careful on social media
If your social media accounts are not set to private, anybody can find you and see everything that you share, even total strangers. Turn your settings to private.
Even when your accounts are private, it doesn't stop friends or followers from sharing your photos, videos, posts and messages with anybody without your permission.
Find out more information about keeping safe on our social media page.
Think before you post
If you wouldn't want your family, future employers or strangers around the world seeing something, then it's best not to post it.
- Nasty comments made in anger could be classed as cyberbullying.
- Sharing jokes can get you a lot of likes, but think about what you're sharing. Is it offensive or hateful?
- Nudes sent to someone in private could be posted online without your permission.
Don't post about others without permission
Don't post something about someone else without checking if it's okay first. They might not want people to know, or they might like to share it themselves.
Get rid of unused accounts
Delete social media accounts you don't use anymore. If an account you use often gets hacked you'll know about it quickly and can do something about it, but if it's an account you never use it might take a while before you realise. Deleting old accounts is also a good way of cleansing your online footprint. Some social media platforms let you deactivate your account. You still have access to your content while deciding if you want to delete it completely.
Check the data your devices collect
Data doesn't just come from social media or websites. Your phone, fitness tracker and smartwatches all collect data about you. All devices are different, so check out their websites online to find out what data is being collected and what it's being used for.
When you download an app, the app will ask for permission to use your data, like access to your contacts, messages and photo library. Read carefully and think about what you are sharing. Only install trusted apps that offer an option to protect your privacy.
Check friends and followers
Check your friends and followers on social media. Do you know and trust everyone? Your content is less likely to be seen and shared without your consent if you do.
Sending nudes is risky, even if you're sending them to someone you trust in private.
What if it's already happened?
If you've posted something you don't want someone to see online, delete it. This could stop anyone else from seeing it in the future. This can be done in the settings of a post or in the help section of the settings. To remove nudes that have been shared online, check out our 'Sharing nudes' section for advice.
If you can't delete something, see if you can edit it instead. You might be able to change something you've written or delete parts of the post, like personal details or mean comments.
Remove content from social media
It's not easy to control what someone else shared about you online. If you know them, ask them to delete it. Be calm but assertive, and explain why you want it taken down. You could even send them a link to this page to explain how important your online footprint and reputation is.
If someone has posted something mean about you, report what's happened. You can report bullying on the social media platform you are using. Check out our ‘Online bullying’ page for information on how to report.
Remove links from search engines
Popular search engines can help you to remove links online about you. Fill in a request form to remove personal information on Google or Bing. If you need help to fill in these forms, ask a trusted adult. If you're not sure how to start a conversation with someone, here are some tips. Once you've sent the form, they will decide to remove the link or not.
Where to go for help
If you’re looking for help or information, but you’re worried about starting a conversation with an adult, here are some tips.
- Meic – free and confidential helpline for children and young people in Wales with advisers to help you find the support you need. Call 080880 23456, text 84001 or chat online
- Childline - free, private and confidential helpline for children and young people in the UK where you can talk about anything. Call 0800 1111
- ThinkUKnow - help you to think about what you post online before you do it
- Internet Matters - step-by-step guides to privacy settings on social media, live streaming and gaming apps
- Report Remove – report and remove nude images that have been shared online
Common Sense Education
Check out this film from Common Sense Education to understand more about some of the problems with oversharing on social media.