Anything you ever do, say or post on the internet is saved forever, even if you delete it. Somewhere in the cyberverse, the remnants of your selfie, wall post or Tweet are going to remain in one form or the other. And that is what we call a digital footprint.
Should this be a matter of concern to you as a parent? Probably not in the way you think. But consider doing a simple Google search of your child’s name and look at everything that turns up. There’s probably a lot of information, isn’t there? Facebook profiles, Twitter page, forum registrations, comments they left on an old YouTube video and so much more. Now if you could see all of this, so can a potential employer, the school principal, or even a predator.
Snapchat got into a lot of trouble for saying that the snaps are ‘gone forever’ when they’ve been sent. Fact is, nothing on the internet is gone forever.
The digital footprint tells you all there is to know about your kid’s online identity. So you’ll need to give them a few lessons about it.
Lesson 1: Use an Alias
Whether they are registering to a forum of their favorite video games, or going onto Tumblr, or Reddit, or any other social media outlets they use, make sure you tell them to use an alias instead of their names. This should make tracing their activity back to them a lot trickier.
Lesson 2: Think Before You Post
Future employers and colleges are increasingly Googling applicants just to do a background check. So your kids should think twice before posting anything. Is there a picture of them that shows a temporary lapse in character? Or perhaps a wall post in which they made an ignorant, prejudice comment.
Lesson 3: You’re Always Being Tracked
Facebook and Google knows everything you do online. Facebook saves every bit of information about you to sell to marketers. This is why when you sometimes watch one embarrassing YouTube video, a similar one appears on your “Recommended” list. So tell them to be safe with their browsing habits because they are always being monitored by third parties.
Lesson 4: Share the Right Things
It is wise to treat your digital footprint like an online resume. So when on your social media, share the right stuff. Highlight things like achievements, volunteer work, positive interests and talents. At the same time, do not overshare. We’ve learnt that anyone can Google you, including cyberstalkers. So don’t give them more information than you need to.
Your Digital Footprint, Your First Impression
Before you have even gone for that interview for a job or met someone new for a date, they have already Googled you to get an essence of who you are. Your digital footprint is a reflection of your online personality. And so it is wise for you to give your kids the awareness from the get go, just so they can start building their image.