How to Help Your Child Understand their Digital Footprint
Almost anyone can find out where you live and what you like to do. He or she doesn’t even have to work for the NSA to go through your personal information.
Think about how you use technology every day:
- pictures that are taken or downloaded
- texts and emails
- online purchases
- social media posts
- GPS mapping
Every one of these actions leaves a digital footprint. You do the same thing when you leave your home. Cameras in stores and on city streets, stoplights, and toll roads record not only your movement but also how quickly you move.
Your digital trail is far easier to follow than the bread crumbs once dropped by Hansel and Gretel. Predators can identify and track similar digital trails when looking for children because of the digital footprints left behind, but they aren’t the only ones interested in what your child doing.
Advertisers want access to your child, but it doesn’t stop there. As your child becomes an adult, he or she will amass a digital footprint that will interest higher education and employers, too.
Digital citizenship begins at home
Have digital citizenship conversations with your children about what they search for and post online. Online content can seem noninvasive or even ethereal to children, especially if it’s been deleted, but if anyone took a screenshot of the content, it will live forever. Is that an association you or your child want in the years to come?
What you can do about it
Managing your digital footprints and those of your children is easy if you have a strategic plan and implement it. These tips will help you sweep up your path:
- Share only when necessary.
Teach your children to limit sharing their email or physical addresses and phone numbers. Giving out private information can be risky. If they’re not sure, they should ask you first.
- Use privacy settings.
If we’ve learned anything from Facebook, it’s that the privacy settings are there for a reason, and we should use them. Rather than provide unfettered access to anyone in the world, limit who can contact you and especially your children through social media.
There’s a reason for spring cleaning. It’s to purge your closets and rooms of the things you no longer need. You can do the same thing by regularly cleaning up the cookies in your computer, deleting old photos you no longer want, and eliminating accounts you no longer use. Older children can also learn how to manage their digital footsteps.
By helping your child understand what it means to have and manage a digital footprint, you’re nurturing responsible digital citizenship.