Through part 1 and part 2 of my investigation over the past week, I have been able to explore my digital footprint and "clean it up." By performing a Google search for myself, I was able to see what anyone who searches me might find. (Honestly, super sleuths may be able to find more about me than I was able to!) How I represent myself online could be the first impression I make on future employers and colleagues, as well as my students and the family members of those students. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that I not only maintain a clean digital presence, but also continue to grow and create a stronger online identity.
|It's important to thoroughly review and preserve your online presence!|
This exploration also helped me comprehend why it is important for students to understand the impact of their actions online. Before doing any sort of work online, students should know that the internet is a public place with an incredibly large audience, and nothing they put into cyberspace can be taken back. (Once it's online, it's there forever, even if you try to delete it or take it back!) Students should be taught that before they type (or say, write, etc.) anything, they should THINK about it.
|Image used with permission by Thomas Galvez on flickr.|
There are some points within THINK that I believe are important to bring up specifically with students. For example, children are easy internet prey, and they need to be taught to protect their personal information. (While some personal information may seem harmless to share, such as photos and birthdays, hackers can breach children's data. This may even make the children discoverable, risking their physical safety.) Keeping personal details private and off the internet (and not sharing these details about others) allows us to use digital tools safely.
Additionally, all people are responsible for their digital footprints. Children should be taught what a digital footprint is, as well as what behaviors promote a positive digital footprint. It should be explained to children that their online reputations are extremely important and that the things they do online can either help or harm their reputations. For example, calling someone a mean name over Twitter not only hurts that person's feelings, but is also lasting evidence that you said that; it can never be taken back once it's online. I really like Common Craft's video explaining why it is important to protect one's online reputation.
Lastly, students should understand that digital footprints can be searched or shared. I can search myself to show my students what information appears about me on the internet. I can also show them screenshots of information I found on the internet about another teacher in the school or a well-known public figure. I will tell students that before they post anything online, they should think about if they would want me, the principal, their parents, or even their grandparents to see it. If not, it should not be posted!
There are many resources teachers and parents can use to learn about children's internet safety. Here are just a few:
- Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner
- Internet Safety's 5 Tips for Creating a Cybersafe Home
- National Crime Prevention Council - Tips for Parents
- A Parent's Guide to Student Data Privacy
There are also many resources actually created for kids so that they can learn about their own internet safety:
- Kids' Rules for Online Safety
- FBI Kid Safety Tips Interactive
- Teens' Health - Online Safety
And here are some lesson plans for teachers to use to introduce the idea of a digital presence to their students:
Lastly, I wanted to include a short, cute video related to students' "digital trails."
What ideas do you have for introducing online safety and the digital presence to your students or children? Please share in the comments!