What are my rights while online?

Learn more about your rights online as a young person

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This factsheet is an extract from the publication Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People published by the Children’s Rights Alliance. It is reproduced here with their kind permission. Know Your Rights is a public information project designed to inform everyone, in plain language, of the rights and entitlements children have in Ireland and where to go when they are not respected.

Your right to privacy online

What is my personal data?

Your personal data is information that relates to you and makes you identifiable. Personal data includes your name, address, date of birth, your medical information, your personal email address, your location data, your mobile or device’s IP address (this is a unique and identifiable code for your device that allows it to operate on the internet).

Why do companies want my personal information?

When you sign up to an online service such as a messaging or gaming app or connect a toy to an app, you must first provide the service with personal information and agree to the terms of service of the app. Apps, particularly those that are free to use, often make money by using your personal information to target you with advertising or sell your information to other companies to do the same.

How can I protect my privacy and personal data online?

There are a number of steps you can take to protect your privacy online including:

  • checking the privacy steps on the apps you are using to make sure that your profile is not publicly visible

  • using complex passwords on your online accounts

  • switching off the location sharing settings on your device and apps

How can I keep safe online?

Protecting your privacy online is an important part of keeping yourself safe. It is important to remember that not everyone is who they say they are online and you can’t be sure of their identity. You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with. You can mute, block and report people who are being abusive.

You can find more information on Webwise, the Irish Internet Safety Awareness Centre. It has tools and tips to help parents, teachers and young people with internet safety. It also provides information about different apps, games and social networks. Cybersafe Ireland has useful resources on their website on safe internet use.

The Irish Internet Hotline allows anyone to confidentially report distressing or troubling content that they come across online. It also has advice and information for parents, guardians and young people about internet use.

At what age can I legally access services online, like join a social media platform or use connected toys?

For most services, such as google, there is no law on what age you can access them.

If a social media platform uses your personal data you have to be 16 years old to sign up without your parent or guardian’s consent. By social media platforms, we mean apps like Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. By connected toys, we mean toys that you can interact with directly or through an app.

Is it legal for me to share intimate photos of myself online or through a messaging app?

If you are under 18 and you send a sexual image of you it is considered child exploitation material under the law. This means that you and the person you send it to could be in very serious trouble. This is because possessing or distributing explicit images of a young person under 18 is illegal and can lead to criminal prosecution.

Penalties can include jail time, a fine and being placed on the sex offenders’ register. If you find yourself in this situation you can seek help from a social worker or Gardaí who might be able to help contain the image or video.

Is it legal for me to share intimate photos online of someone else who is under the age of 18?

No. It is not legal to share intimate photos of someone else who is under the age of 18. The law views posting or spreading pictures like these as distributing child sexual abuse material often referred to as child pornography.

Possession of these types of photos is also illegal, even if you have not posted them anywhere else or shown them to anyone.

What should I do if someone under 18 shares an intimate photo of themselves with me?

Creating, distributing or even possessing any explicit image of someone under 18 is a potentially criminal act and should be reported to An Garda Síochána.

What should I do if I see something that troubles me online?

Most websites have a system where you can report a post or picture that you find distressing or troubling. If you come across something more serious that you suspect to be illegal like child sexual abuse material, you can report it anonymously in a secure and confidential way on hotline.ie

You should also talk to a trusted adult about what you have seen and discuss how it made you feel.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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