Until this week I had no idea what a 'digital nudist' was. Do you?

It turns out it’s a term coined by the internet security expert Tom Ilubé, to describe someone who’s revealing everything about themselves online -- without a privacy setting to their name. The BBC’s Media Literacy team in Salford has been working with Tom over the last couple of months to get digital nudists to cover themselves up, for the sake of their online safety and security.

It’s an issue that’s sometimes presented in the news media in a fairly light-hearted way, with stories of how an ill-considered Facebook invitation to a house-party resulted in hundreds of excited teenagers trashing someone’s suburban semi. That’s bad enough, but the results of 'digital nudity' can be much more serious than that.

The importance of managing your online reputation, and highlighting the risks of oversharing, is the focus of Share Take Care – the BBC’s contribution to Safer Internet Day today – an international campaign to encourage people to stay safe and responsible online. We’ve developed the campaign in partnership with the UK Safer Internet Centre, targeting teenagers and younger children who are, of course, growing up in an environment where social media are used routinely but not always wisely.

We’re also aiming to get the message to adults who can influence the way kids behave online. Many of us who came of age before the internet are playing catch up, particularly with social media, and awareness of the potential pitfalls as well as the positives are important to us too.

I was beginning my career as the digital age arrived. The paper where I started was the first outside London to get newsroom computers. They were truly massive (about the size of desktop washing machines). It was all chunky keys and tiny green type glowing on a tiny screen. A couple of years later, reporting on the miners’ demonstrations against pit closures, I was an early adopter of the Radio Stoke mobile phone - a huge contraption, the size of a breeze block. None of these monster devices were with me 24/7, nor did they instantly connect me to friends or strangers around the world to share my pictures, music and videos, or half-formed thoughts on life.

Thank goodness those days are over. Being connected has brought enormous benefits in our working and personal lives, but we have online responsibilities as well as rights – so Share Take Care is campaigning for us to ‘connect with respect’ and we’ve produced a raft of new resources to help.

BBC Learning has worked with Radio 1 and 1 extra to create a new online game where you race against the clock to like or un-tag yourself from comments and posts to keep your online reputation intact. The station has also produced a series of documentaries highlighting the pitfalls of over sharing. CBBC have commissioned a number of BBC Learning-funded music videos featuring presenters delivering internet safety messages in song. The Newsround reporting team channel their inner boy band.

And in two films for BBC Learning’s Webwise site, we set a ‘digital detective’ – aka online security specialist Tom Ilube - onto some willing victims. Armed only with their names and the town they live in, he spent a day on the trail of two mother and daughter teams. What he discovered shocked us, and them. In the films, fronted by Breakfast and Five Live's Louise Minchin, you’ll see jaws, and then pennies, dropping, when Tom tell them that he’s found dates of birth, mothers’ maiden names, addresses, schools, a partner in his underpants (viewable by a billion people worldwide), a grandfather who’s undergone a sex change, intimate chats conducted on public twitter feeds, jokes about homework and teachers, tattoos, and nights out in all their gory detail.

Since our filming, passwords have been changed, accounts locked down to private and potentially embarrassing online histories deleted. Even the most digitally committed mum now wonders: “why would I want strangers knowing so much about me?”

And hopefully they’ll remember Tom’s top tip: whenever you’re about to post something online, pause and just imagine someone you respect reading that post or looking at that photo. If that feels uncomfortable, don’t do it.

Andrew Tomlinson is Executive Producer, Media Literacy, BBC Learning


Find out more about the BBC Share Take Care campaign via Webwise

The UK Safer Internet Centre has more information on using the internet safely and responsibly

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