- Many social networking services and messenger apps include settings to control a user’s privacy. These settings can take a number of different forms and can be used to restrict contact from other users on the service (such as who can be added as a friend/follower, who can post comments underneath another user’s posts), limit exposure to different types of content and limit the personal data that others can see about a user on the service. Depending on the features of the service, they may also include settings to control who can join, view or comment on live video calls and live streaming.
- If the service allows locations to be shared, there may also be settings to control this feature. These settings are important to review as some apps can give away live location data to other users, allowing someone to see exactly where a user is in real time.
- Privacy settings are important tools for helping manage online reputations. Search engines can only display information that can be publicly viewed online. By using these settings, a user can limit what (if anything) can be seen publicly or by other users who aren’t friends/followers on a service. Although links to a user’s social networking profile can still be displayed in search results, viewing that link will not display any further personal data unless the user’s settings allow it.
- Some social networks and games have additional privacy features for children. For example, some games and services may restrict the communication between two users if one is known to be an adult and the other is known to be a child under the age of 13. However, these features rely on users being truthful about their age on the service.
- On some online services, privacy settings are turned off by default – it is up to the user to activate the settings. This can make it very easy for personal data to be shared with others online if a user is unaware that the settings are not automatically activated.
- Take the time to explore with your child the privacy settings available on their favourite apps and games in order to understand and use them. Younger children do not always understand the concept of privacy settings clearly, so discussing these and trying them out to see what they do can be helpful.
- Always look for any settings that control ‘live’ features such as location sharing or live streaming. If your child doesn’t use these features then always switch these off (they may be turned on by default). If they do intend to use these features, discuss the risks around sharing locations and live video.
- Never assume that privacy settings are in place by default when a new account is created, it can vary from service to service. Always look for and check these settings before allowing your child to use the account.
- Remember, privacy settings are there to control how other users can contact you and what personal data they can see about you. These settings do not usually affect the way in which the service collects personal data about their users. Some services may provide additional settings to manage personal data collection.