Teaching Kids About Their Digital Footprint

Have you ever had an old Facebook status come back to bite you? Maybe you’ve had an unflattering photo from the past do the rounds among your friends, to your horror!

If these things have happened to you, you’ve fallen victim to your digital footprint.

What is a digital footprint?
Just like walking on a sandy beach, your online activity leaves a footprint.

Status updates, stories, photos, tweets and websites you visit all leave their mark and can go on to create issues in real life, especially when it comes to friendships and job opportunities.

Social media as we know it wasn’t a thing when we were kids, so many of our embarrassing and immature outbursts thankfully never got recorded on the internet for all to see.

Everything you post about your child is creating their digital footprint well before they have social media accounts of their own.

How can a bad digital footprint affect your child’s future?

Even if kids untag themselves in an unflattering photo or delete a message they wrote when they were angry, it’s not always gone. People can take screenshots and data might still be floating around somewhere.

For kids, potential negative impacts of a bad digital footprint could be arguments with friends, strained relationships with family and getting in trouble with their school.

In extreme cases, if a parent posts something that reveals too much information like a picture of their child in front of their school, it can become a safety issue if falls into the wrong hands.

Helping kids build a healthy digital footprint

Google yourself: to start, test you and your child’s digital footprints by Googling your names and seeing what comes up.
This can help kids understand what a digital footprint looks like in practice.
If you’re unhappy with the results, see if any pictures or posts can be untagged or deleted.

Watch your posts: we all want to share cute photos of our kids, but be careful with oversharing. Make sure no personal details are hidden in the picture, like their school uniform, and make sure your privacy settings are tight.

How would they feel? Think about how your child would feel if they saw that embarrassing photo of them you posted. How would they feel if they knew you broadcast on Facebook that they threw up in class or that they did something embarrassing in public?

This can damage your child’s trust in you as they grow as they might be hesitant to tell you something in case you post it for everyone to read.

Pause before posting: Kids can sometimes have a hard time dealing with emotions like anger, sadness and frustration.
That’s why it’s good to get kids in the habit of pausing before sending a message or posting something in the heat of the moment that they might regret later.

Think: encourage kids to use the THINK method before they send a message or post.
True. Is what I’m posting truthful?
Helpful. Is what I’m saying helping others?
Inspiring. Will this post inspire others in a positive way?
Necessary. Is this post necessary, or is pointless clutter?
Kind. Is what I’m saying or sharing kind?

Digital footprints can affect parents and kids alike.

By keeping a few things in mind we can help kids create a footprint that won’t damage their friendships and set them up with healthy habits to protect their footprint well into adulthood.