Disclosing personal information

Worried about young people disclosing personal information online? This resource provides information on the key risks to disclosing personal information and when to disclose, as well as info on avoiding scams. Read our tips on protecting personal information and check out our social media classroom activities to help you teach students about making educated choices when disclosing personal information online.

This will help you to:

  • understand key risks

  • know when it’s safe to disclose personal information

  • protect your information online.

Boy typing on laptop computer

Online risks

Today you can access almost anything on the internet, from entertainment, credit and financial services to products from every corner of the world. While the internet affords a certain level of anonymity, there are increasing ways in which your personal information can be at risk.

With awareness as your safety net, you can minimize the chance of an Internet mishap. Being on guard online helps you protect your information, your computer, and your money. To be safer and more secure online, make these practices part of your online routine.

Young people can be vulnerable, as they place a great deal of importance on developing an online personality, and many sites ask for their personal information. While many are savvy enough to set up strict privacy restrictions on their profiles and to avoid email scams, it is worthwhile encouraging them to be proactive about the risks associated with providing personal information online.

Help your students understand how to manage online risks using our 'online communities’ classroom activity.

Disclosing personal information

To an identity thief, personal information can provide instant access to financial accounts, credit record, and other assets. If you think no one would be interested in your personal information, think again. Anyone can be a victim of identity theft.

One way criminals or hackers get personal information online is by lying about who they are, to convince people to share account numbers, passwords, and other information so they can purchase things in your name.

This type of scam is called "phishing": criminals send email, text, or pop-up messages that appear to come from your bank, a government agency, an online seller or another organization with which you do business. The message asks you to click to a website or call a phone number to update your account information or claim a prize or benefit. It might suggest something bad will happen if you don't respond quickly with your personal information. In reality, legitimate businesses should never use email, pop-ups, or text messages to ask for your personal information.

Support students to understand when to disclose personal information using our 'boundary setting on social media' classroom activity.

Avoiding phishing scams:

  • Don't reply to an email, text, or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, and don't click on links in the message. If you want to go to a bank or business's website, type the web addresses into your browser yourself.

  • Don't respond if you get a message - by email, text, pop-up or phone - that asks you to call a phone number to update your account or give your personal information to access a refund. If you need to reach an organization with which you do business, call the number on your financial statement, or use a telephone directory.

Understanding how to respond to scams can be difficult for students. Help them learn to make safe choices using our ‘things to stop doing online’ classroom activity.

Protecting personal information

Some identity thieves have stolen personal information from many people at once, by hacking into large databases managed by businesses or government agencies. While you can't enjoy the benefits of the Internet without sharing some personal information, you can take steps to share only with organizations you know and trust. Don't give out your personal information unless you first find out how it's going to be used and how it will be protected, and change your passwords regularly to keep your information secure.

If you are shopping online, don't provide your personal or financial information through a company's website until you have checked for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser's status bar or a website URL that begins "https:" (the "s" stands for "secure"). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some scammers have forged security icons and some hackers have managed to breach sites that took appropriate security precautions.

Help students learn about protecting their privacy online using our 'privacy on social media' classroom activity.

eSafety Commissioner

Resources to help teachers and schools create safer online environments, available here.

Staying safe online

Cybersecurity service for protecting against online threats and reporting security concerns, available here.

The Easy Guide to Socialising Online

The Easy Guide is a regularly reviewed resource which provides guidance on protecting personal information, managing privacy, and responding to harassment on contemporary social networks.

View the guide here.

Enhancing parents' knowledge

Read the Young and Well CRC research report "Enhancing parents' knowledge and practice of online safety" here.

What can I do now?

  • Don’t reply to emails, text messages, or pop-ups that ask for personal information.

  • Only disclose personal information to trusted or secure websites.

  • Change your passwords regularly.