A Guide to Your Digital Footprint

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The age of the internet has allowed for instant information, collaboration, and communication. The internet and its perks have brought forth the need to discuss media safety; specifically googleabilty.  Ask elementary students what would result  if they googled their name and many may not know.

The virtual trail that occurs with the use of social media and other web 2.0 tools  is easily traceable by others. In addition to obvious safety and privacy  issues, this traceability can carry over to potential employers. The permanence of online activity and reputation management go hand in hand. Understanding this connection is the first step towards creating and maintaining a positive virtual identity.

Teaching about your digital footprint should be fostered at an early age. Afterall, safety and privacy are important issues to students who use the internet for many purposes. Here is a general guide for introducing your students to how to develop a positive digital footprint.

1. Define Digital footprint –Commonsensemedia.org offers an effective introductory video to the digital footprint. This video outlines the ease of searchability and the permanence of your online activity.

According to techterms.com, a  digital footprint is a trail of  data you create while using the Internet. It includes the websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit to online services.

2. In small groups, allow students to discuss:

  • What their digital footprints might reveal based on their online activity.
  • How might their digital footprint affect future opportunities?

3. Allow students to Google their names. Discuss their findings.

4. Discuss some tips on managing your digital identity:

  • Maybe intuitive to some, remind kids never to post anything that they may find embarrassing later.
  • Use extreme caution when posting pictures online.
  • Ensure social media settings are set on private.
  • Do not disclose personal information online. Even emails and private messages are vulnerable to hacking.
  • Do not post anything hurtful to anyone. Inflicting harm through words or threats can have serious consequences.
  • The internet is forever. Information posted online stays online.

Creating a positive online presence:

While it is crucial to proceed with caution on the internet, internet activity should not be viewed as all gloom and doom.The internet and its sharing capabilities allow students to be creative while expressing themselves to a huge audience.  Once students have received some guidance on internet identity, teaching them how to create a positive presence will create internet users who publish and share in meaningful ways.

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