With school closures and home working, both adults and children are spending more time online, so it is more important than ever that we think about good digital citizenship and how to protect our Digital Footprints.
A digital footprint consists of all our traceable online activity. Some of this we create intentionally, such as texts, social network posts, comments, photos and videos posted and shared. Other data trails may be unintentional such as information collected and shared by apps and cookies. You may have seen the news that Google will be publicly tracking the movement of people during the pandemic (using Google Maps or their other mobile services), to help reduce transmission of Covid-19. They are able to give details of the places people in 130 countries are visiting. Although for these purposes, data will be anonymised, it does make you think about how much of our activities can be tracked.
Our digital footprints can identify us online and give others an impression of the sort of person we are. Think about all those memes and videos being shared at present. Most are funny and help to cheer us up, but some slip into the realm of bad taste, or are actually offensive. Children tend to be impulsive users of technology and may be tempted to forward inappropriate content without considering the consequences either to others or to themselves.
Now is the time to educate children about good digital citizenship before they make a mistake which impacts them, their contacts or their schools. They need to be reminded to stop and think before sharing anything online, and to consider how it might be perceived by others. Remind them that once content has been shared it is almost impossible to delete it. A rash decision might upset others or create a negative impression which could adversely affect their reputation and even future study, travel or job prospects.
Mental health issues are also much in the news at present. Encouraging communication between children can be very helpful to avoid feelings of isolation and worry, but children may also unwittingly share news or comments that add to other children’s concerns. Let’s talk to children about how they might help others and enhance their digital footprint. Good Digital citizenship means using technology in an appropriate and responsible way, being aware of how our actions online can impact others as well as ourselves. We should all follow the same etiquette online that applies offline – eg. showing respect, being supportive of others, playing games fairly, not plagiarising the work of others and promoting a safe and enjoyable online environment.
Let’s remind both children and adults to think before they post anything online! Who could see it? How will it be perceived by others? What will its impact be now or in the future? Does it create a positive impression? Could it upset, worry or offend anyone else? Technology can be hugely helpful in these testing times – let’s use it positively and to the very best advantage!