Online Profile Checklist
Many websites today allow you to create your own profile to let other users know a bit about you. A profile is all about you. It’s your own personal online space. Profiles are a great way for friends to communicate but, because it’s all online, other people besides your friends may be able to see it too. There is no such thing as complete privacy online. When it comes to profiles, remember it may not only be your friends who are viewing so you don’t want to reveal too much. In creating a profile, ask yourself, “how much would I want a stranger to know about me?”
Here is a checklist to help you make sure that you are not giving away too much personal information on your profile:
NAME: You don’t need to include your full name; your friends already know who you are! You could use a nickname instead. However, a nickname can say a lot about you and can give others the wrong impression. Think about how your nickname may be perceived. For example, “Wild_grl_15” is not a good nickname. It may give viewers the wrong impression, and also reveals the age of the user (see next section for more on age). Other things you should be careful not to include in nicknames are things like your location and the name of the school you go to.
AGE: Letting others know your age is probably okay, as long as you don’t link it to other, more personal information, like your full name, hometown, and school. However, it’s probably best if you don’t have it on your profile. Lying about your age can be easy and pretty tempting, but there are risks associated with including a false age. For example, if you state that your age is older than you actually are, you may attract unwanted attention.
SEX: It’s fine to let others know if you’re a boy or a girl, as long as you are careful about what other information you have on your profile!
ADDRESS: Your friends already know where you live. Giving your full address means that anyone in the world who views your profile knows exactly where to find you. That can be dangerous! It’s ok if you want to put a general location of where you are for networking purposes, such as Ontario or Ottawa. However, if you are from a small town or village, it’s probably not a good idea to include your specific location.
PHONE NUMBER: If your friends don’t already have it, you should give it to them in person. A person can find out a lot of other details about you if they know your phone number (for example, looking up some phone numbers on the Internet can reveal your home address). Also, if your phone number is online, anyone in the world may be able to call you.
EMAIL: Your friends and family should already know your email. Think of all the annoying junk mail and spam you could get if you post it online! You may also get personal emails from people you don’t know and don’t care to know.
SCHOOL: People who know you will already know what school you go to. Like other information listed here, school names can reveal your relative location and other information about you (for example, your general age).
PHOTOS/VIDEOS: Any photos or videos you post online can be downloaded, copied, altered or printed. Once you post them online, they may be on the Internet forever – even if you take them down at a later time! If you include pictures in your profile, they should be ones that you wouldn’t mind your parents or teachers seeing. Also, be sure that no other information is included in the pictures or videos, such as your school, street name or sports teams. For your main profile picture, a cool graphic or avatar would probably do.
POSTS/BLOGS: Posting on profiles or blogs is a quick way to communicate with your friends online, and it doesn’t cost you minutes on your phone. But, anyone may be able to read what you write. Think about what you write before you click SEND. Would your parents be upset if they saw what you wrote? Are you giving out too much information such as where you are going to be, or that you are on vacation (in other words, “hey everyone, my house is going to be empty for awhile!”).
MUSIC: Many people may break laws by sharing and/or distributing music online (simply downloading music is legal in Canada). Someone else usually owns the rights or has copyrighted the music. Adding music to your profile is alright as long as you have the rights to do so. Try using a song you put together!
PROFILE SETTINGS: Privacy settings exist on almost every site where you can create a profile. When possible, make sure your profile is set to private. This makes it harder for people you don’t know to see your profile. However, it is not impossible! As we stated earlier, nothing online is truly private.
- It’s easy to lie online, but remember: if you can lie, so can others! Don’t believe everything you are told online.
- Stay in control of your online reputation. Think about how your behaviour online may be perceived by others (including coaches, employers, parents and strangers).
- Remember that all online choices have offline consequences and, in some cases, may even legal implications.