Taking care of your digital footprint

It's important to know what information is collected by your computers and the websites you visit. Learn about your digital footprint and how to keep your personal information and reputation safe.


A digital footprint is everything people can find out about you from the websites you visit. When you share something publicly online or leave comments on things others have posted, you're adding to your footprint.

Smart devices, like a fitness tracker or smart watch, might track where you go or be able to hear what’s being said. All of these things collect information about you and add to your digital footprint.

It's important to think about what can be found and whether this could cause you any problems. Remember that you can control a lot of what people see. You can do this by making sure that everything you post online has the right audience.

The online world is a public place. If you share something online you may not have full control over who sees it or what happens to it. If people search for your name or a nickname you use, a lot of what you post online could be found. People could copy, share or discuss things you've posted. 

Things people can find out about you online:

  • public posts and comments on social networking sites
  • discussions or arguments you've been in
  • reviews you've posted of films or music
  • videos or images you are named or tagged in.

Why does it matter?

Some websites and devices may save and share information about you that you're not always aware of. It's important to read the privacy policy and check out privacy settings for the websites and devices you use. You should do the same when using apps too.

People finding out too much about you can be embarrassing and dangerous. If you post a rude comment or video online, a potential employer might see it. This could be embarrassing or might come up when you look for a job.

There are many reasons why this could also be dangerous. For example, if you've ever been in abusive relationship, you wouldn't want your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend to discover details about your where you live or where you go to school or college.

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See how other people stay safe online

Your online reputation

A digital footprint can be a good way to show off your skills and interests. Employers, colleges and universities often search the names of people who want to study or work with them. Some things might give them a good impression. If you've done some fundraising or created some art, it can feel good to show off your achievements.

3 things to remember when you're posting stuff online:

  1. The internet is an open space
    If you post something publicly anyone can find it. If you share something you only want your friends to see, think about how your family, teachers and classmates might react
  2. Things you post online can be copied, saved or shared by other people
    Even if you change your mind and delete things they may have saved copies. Think about whether a friends-only post on a social networking website would be better than a public one
  3. Personal insults, threats or discrimination online can get you into trouble with the law
    This can happen even if you mean it as a joke. Think carefully before you post angry things online. It might help to write down your feelings on a piece of paper instead or taking a break from being online until you're feeling less angry. Meeting a friend, listening to music, reading or playing sport can help to get the angry feelings out without actually posting them.

Deleting things you've shared online

Not everything we post or share online can be easily deleted. The ways of doing this will be different for website or social network you use. But, if there's something you want deleted it’s definitely worth checking before you give up.

getting creative online

Many young people have blogs on websites like Tumblr or post videos on YouTube.

Blogging and making videos can be great fun and you can build up an audience (fans and followers). It can be a great way to show off your hobbies, such as writing, baking or art. If you do this it's important to be aware of the dangers and take steps to stay safe.


Keeping your information secure

As well as your public digital footprint, it's a good idea to think about what people can learn about you from your computer.

All computers connected to the internet have a special number, called an IP address, which websites can trace. For example, if someone tries to threaten or groom you online, the police can use IP addresses to try to find out where the messages are coming from.

Your computer saves a trail of where you go online and stores a history of the websites you visit. You can delete the history of the websites you've visited on your computer so other people can't see it. If you're worried about what you're looking at online, it can help to speak to an adult you trust.

There are also some really easy ways to make sure what you do online isn't monitored or easy to find out. You can:

  • Log out
    Make sure you're logged out of any website you're using when you're away from your computer. This means no one can pretend to be you online, read anything you've posted to friends or read things friends have posted just to you.
  • Search history
    Stop your browser saving the things you search for. Most web browsers can remember what you type. They often do this so they can fill in online forms more quickly the next time you use your computer. In most browsers you can turn this setting off. Often it's called 'saved form information', 'autofill' or 'form data' and you can clear anything that has been saved when you delete your history.
  • Choosing your favourites
    Try not to add any websites to your 'favourites' list that you'd be uncomfortable with other people seeing.


If you’re worried - find someone you trust to talk to. Try talking to your parents, teachers or another adult you feel comfortable with.

You might also find it helpful to chat to other young people who have the same worries as you. The message boards are a great way to do this. If you have a particular question, you could also Ask Sam for advice.

Other sites we recommend: 

  • Digital footprint checklist use their handy checklist to make sure you know what to do
  • Thinkuknow can help you to think about what you're posting online before you do it
  • Young Scot have got great advice about looking after your digital footprint
  • Kidsmart have great tips from other young people about digital footprints.