Leveraging Your Digital Footprint
If I Google you, what impression would I get from your digital presence? Would it be positive or negative? Do you even have a digital profile that is easily found? These are relevant questions when trying to understand about our digital footprints. Everything that we post on the internet says something about us. So, it is crucial to be highly conscious of the messages that we want to send.
About four years ago, a coworker and I prepared a presentation about Digital Citizenship for students in grades 4-6. The intention was to discuss their digital lives. At that time, the general idea we had about students venturing online was that it was dangerous. We talked about Cyberbullying, the Deep Web and how predators may entice minors. Our objective was to deter students from behaving improperly online. We presented the video, What Is Your Digital Footprint from Common Sense Media along with other resources, but we didn’t dig deeper into the positive aspects your digital footprint may have in portraying your passions and the meaningful things you consider in life.
It coincided that while I was reading about Digital Citizenship, The Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. featured Boston Public Schools in a Tweet. The focus was on some students who produced their own video as part of their Cyber Safety Campaign, and I was glad to see them mentioning how future university admission officials or employees may look at their digital profiles.
— Office of Ed Tech (@OfficeofEdTech) November 17, 2017
However, like I did when teaching students in the past, the message in the Boston Public School’s video didn’t emphasize using your digital footprint to your benefit. However, if we start with the premise that when posting online, you have control of the kind of person you want to be, then the approach to digital footprint education shifts towards empowering the user.
In addition, not having a digital presence online could also raise questions about you, especially in this day and age when social media and communication play an important role in mainstream culture. As Susan Ricker mentions in her blog, not having a presence online could also play against you.
When your social media presence is invisible to employers, you miss out on a lot of great opportunities to showcase yourself as a valuable and skilled employee.
Here is where I come to conclude that it is never too early to start teaching students about their digital footprint because the type of person we want to be online really isn’t any different than the real one offline. The permanent nature of online postings and how viral the spreading of information may become are aspects should compel educators to teach students to think before they post.
Lisa Nielsen says it so eloquently in her blog:
The important lesson with managing your digital footprint is that everything we do online should represent who we are and what we stand for and we must have the knowledge that this representation will stick with us potentially forever.
Finally, before you start facilitating the discussion with your students, make sure you Google yourself and clean-up your digital footprint first.
Here is how: