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Digital Footprints

At the hospital when my youngest daughter was born, I swear there were Apple and Samsung reps in the hallway trying to sign her to a brand, well at least it feels that way sometimes. I’ve received some odd looks from people when they ask what my daughters like to use on an iPad and I tell them that they don’t have one, and won’t unless it is compulsory for school. I survived my early childhood without a device, and I’m sure they will survive theirs.

However, I digress. I’m really writing about digital footprints. Teaching kids about being cyber-smart isn’t the easiest job in the world, but it has to be done.

Digital Footprints was a topic that grabbed my attention when the high school photo swapping saga hit the mainstream media. I would hope the kids involved had had some form of education about the ins and outs of the internet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it sinks in. As everyone knows, teachers don’t know how to internet.

A Digital Footprint is the track we leave behind on the internet. A digital footprint is anything that can be shared, copied or broadcast, across the internet, and is almost impossible to erase.

I currently work with 11 and 12 year olds and, thankfully, they are once removed from all that nonsense by at least a few years (one hopes).

Often times our off the cuff response to kids and activities that can lead to unwanted outcomes is “Well, just don’t”.
Sex? Just Don’t. Drugs? Just Don’t. I started to plan my lesson around kids should just avoid leaving a digital footprint, as it’s just messy, when I stumbled across Trillion Dollar Footprint.

The short introductory video changed my opinion completely to focus more on constructing a footprint you can be proud of. The meme “found a photo of your grandma” came to mind, though I won’t be showing that to my class.

We spoke about making sure that as we explore the web and start to create our digital footprint, that we are leaving behind a trail that we wouldn’t mind our parents seeing. Kids admitted that they already share things online that they would be horrified if their parents knew about, while others openly admitted that they show many of their posts and accounts to their parents.

We spoke about how even the most secure web services can be compromised by a break in circles of trust, or how a small fight between friends can lead to silly outcomes with friends trying to get ‘revenge’. We spoke about permanence on the web, and although Benji didn’t appear many places on the internet, The Way Back Machine keeps a good eye on everything. I was able to show the kids a gaming website I frequented in 2004/2005.

Nothing I could say as a teacher is going to stop kids from leaving their digital footprint, but hopefully I can have enough of an impact that they leave a digital footprint they can be proud of.

So, what do you think ?

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