Lesson 12: Private and Personal Information


Developed by Common Sense Education, this lesson is about the difference between information that is safe to share online and information that is not.

As students visit sites that request information about their identities, they learn to adopt a critical inquiry process that empowers them to protect themselves and their families from identity theft. In this lesson, students learn to think critically about the user information that some websites request or require. They learn the difference between private information and personal information, as well as how to distinguish what is safe or unsafe to share online.


Common Sense Education has created this lesson to teach kids the importance of security on the internet. By discussing the difference between personal and private information, students will be able to recognize what information should and shouldn't be shared. Students will also learn what signs you should look for to determine if a website is safe or not.


Warm Up (5 min)

Main Activity (35 min)

Wrap Up (15 min)

Assessment (10 min)

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Students will be able to:

  • Learn about the benefits and risks of sharing information online.
  • Understand what type of information can put them at risk for identity theft and other scams.



Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Teachers

For the Students


  • Identity Theft - When a thief steals someone’s private information in order to pretend to be that person.
  • Personal Information - Information that is about you, but can’t be used to identify you.
  • Private Information - Information that can be used to identify you.
  • Register (Online) - To enter your information in order to sign up and get access to a website.


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Teaching Guide

Warm Up (5 min)



  • What types of information do you think are okay to share publicly online such as on an online profile that others will see?
    • Interests and favorite activities
    • Opinions about a movie
    • First name
  • What are some examples of websites where you must register in order to participate?
    • Social networking sites
    • Video-sharing sites
    • Youth discussion sites
    • Ask-an-expert sites
    • Game sites

Write the names of the websites on the board. Explain that it's important to know that sharing some kinds of user information can put you and your family's privacy at risk.

Main Activity (35 min)

Teacher Tip

As an offline alternative, print out and copy the website pages that ask for registration and log-in information. Distribute these to the students.

Log In

Project for the class, or have students go online to Neopets, Nickelodeon, or BookAdventure. Do not ask the students to sign up for these sites!

Discuss with the students the kinds of information that each website requires or requests before the users can participate.


  • What information is required? Why do you think it is required?
    • First name, username, password, password hint, gender, the state you live in, parent's permission, etc. This information is required because it helps distinguish one person from another. Or perhaps the website is keeping a record of who uses it.
  • What information is optional? Why do you think it is optional?
    • Parent's email, birthday, state, country, gender, etc. This information is likely optional because the website does not require it for payment or to distinguish people. Or perhaps the website wants to keep track of this kind of information.
  • Why do you think websites ask for this kind of information?
    • They want to get people to pay in order to use the site, they want to send messages to people who are signing up, or they want to try to sell things to those people.

Point Out that you do not have to fill out fields on websites if they are not required. Required fields are usually marked by an asterisk (*) or are highlighted in red.

Private and Personal

Explain to the students that some kinds of information are generally safe to share on the internet and some are not. However, the information that's considered safe should not be shared one-on-one with people the students don't already know offline.

Teacher Tip

If you'd like a more clear distinction between "personal" and "private" information in these definitions, you can use other phrases like "friendly information" or "sharable information" to better define the line that the students should recognize. We chose to keep "personal" and "private" to stay true to Common Sense Education's lesson plan.


  • Personal Information: Information that can’t be used to identify you.
  • Private Information: Information that is about you and can be used to identify you.

Emphasize that personal information is usually safe to share online. Private information is usually unsafe to share online, meaning students should get permission from a parent or guardian before sharing this kind of information.

Share the following examples of information that is safe or unsafe to share:

SAFE - Personal Information UNSAFE - Private Information
- Your favorite food
- Your opinion (though it shoud be done respectfully)
- First name (with permission)
- Mother's maiden name
- Social Security number
- Your date of birth
- Parents' credit card information
- Phone number


  • Why would someone want to steal someone else's identity on the internet?
    • To steal money
    • To do something bad or mean
    • To hide their real identity


  • Identity Theft: When a thief steals someone’s private information in order to pretend to be that person.

Explain that an identity thief uses private information to pretend to be the person whose identity he or she has stolen. Once the thief has taken someone’s identity, he or she can use that person’s name to get a driver’s license or buy things, even if the person whose identity they stole isn’t old enough to do these things! It’s often not until much later that people realize their identity has been stolen. Identity thieves may also apply for credit cards in other people’s names and run up big bills that they don’t pay off. Let students know that identity thieves often target children and teens because they have a clean credit history and their parents are unlikely to be aware that someone is taking on their child’s identity.

Emphasize the difference between private information (which can be used to steal your identity) and personal information (which cannot be used to steal your identity). Invite students to answer the following questions (write their answers on the board):


  • What kinds of private information could an identity thief use to find out and steal your identity?
    • First and last name, postal address, email address, phone numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security number, mother's maiden name.
  • What kinds of personal information could you share about yourself without showing your identity?
    • Your age, gender, how many siblings you have, your favorite music, your favorite food, what pets you have, the name of your pet, your opinion about something.

Explain to students that on the internet, people you interact with could be your friends next door or strangers who live on the other side of the world. Because it’s hard to know the intentions of people who you’ve never met before, it is best to remain cautious when sharing your information. You wouldn’t give strangers your private information in the real world, and you need to be just as careful when you’re online.

Remind students how important it is each time they share information online to stop and think: “Am I giving out information that I should keep private?” Point out that it can sometimes be safe to give out some private information. For example, a website might ask for your birth date or email address. But students should always ask their parent or guardian before giving out private information.

Distribute the Protect Yourself Student Handout and have students complete the activity. Review the answers as a class.

What's Safe to Share Online?

Distribute the All About Me Handout. Have students write down all the personal information they would like to share on a public profile in an online community. Emphasize that even though personal information is safe to share online, it is okay to choose not to share it. Remind students that everything on the list should be safe to share; none of it should be private information that can put their identity at risk.

Encourage students to share their lists with the class.


  • Is there anything on the lists that could be used by an identity thief? Why?
    • Guide students to explain their answers and encourage them to use the vocabulary terms.

Wrap Up (15 min)

Flash Chat: What did we learn about today?

You can use these questions to assess your students’ understanding of the lesson objectives. You may want to ask students to reflect in writing on one of the questions, using a journal or an online blog/wiki.


  • What is identity theft?
    • Using someone else's private information to pretend to be that person.
  • How do personal information and private information differ?
    • Private information, such as a Social Security number, is unsafe to share. It should be kept private so that identity thieves cannot use it. Personal information, such as your favorite food, cannot be used by identity thieves and is safe to share. Even though personal information is usually safe to share online, you might choose not to share this information, and that’s fine.
  • What would be a good rule for kids about giving out private information?
    • They should not share it online without the permission of a teacher, parent, or guardian.


Having students write about what they learned, why it’s useful, and how they feel about it can help solidify any knowledge they obtained today and build a review sheet for them to look to in the future.

Journal Prompts:

  • What did you learn in today's lesson?
  • How do you feel about today's lesson?
  • Give an example of personal information and private information.
  • What's a website that you use often? How do you know it is a safe website to use?

Assessment (10 min)

Private and Personal Information

Hand out the assessment to students. Allow students time to complete the assessment. If there is time left over, go over the answers with the students.

Standards Alignment

View full course alignment

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

NI - Networks & the Internet
  • 1B-NI-05 - Discuss real-world cybersecurity problems and how personal information can be protected.

Cross-curricular Opportunities

This list represents opportunities in this lesson to support standards in other content areas.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards

L - Language
  • 4.L.6 - Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g
SL - Speaking & Listening
  • 4.SL.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • 4.SL.1.b - Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
  • 4.SL.4 - Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
  • 4.SL.6 - Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.

Common Core Math Standards

MP - Math Practices
  • MP.1 - Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  • MP.6 - Attend to precision
  • MP.7 - Look for and make use of structure

Next Generation Science Standards

ETS - Engineering in the Sciences
ETS1 - Engineering Design
  • 3-5-ETS1-1 - Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.