Digital Footprints, why Students need to understand them now!

Admit it, you have Googled a person or two, trying to see what you can find out about them. Maybe it was someone who was applying for a job with you. Or maybe it was the person doing the hiring, and you were the one in the hot seat. Whatever the case, odds are they found you… or someone with your name, at the very least.

Let’s face it, information is power. The major difference between now and just 10 years ago is the accessibility of that information. 30 years ago, it was extremely difficult to dig up information on someone, you had to ‘know’ someone. 20 years ago, it was still hard, but there were some of us active on the early stages of the internet, or bulletin boards (yes, that one dates me).

Now, pretty much everyone has a digital footprint. What is a digital footprint you ask? Think of it as a history of what you have said, done, and who you have been hanging around. Things you have done and said when you were happy, sad, angry, etc. The prevalence of social media just increases the size of one’s footprint.

Kids today are all over these social media sites, posting, taking pictures, sharing information, etc. All of it is saved.. somewhere, someone has a copy of it. What a student posts in anger in 9th grade will be there, forever.

Every time that student later applies for a high paying job, you can bet that someone is doing their homework, looking for that person’s digital footprint. Many people think they can just use fake names, etc on websites, and thus avoid being found.

We, as educators, need to ensure that students understand, if someone is determined enough, they can be found. You can find people by trolling through Google, Facebook, etc. If you know who their friends are/were in real life, that just helps you find them.

So, as you prepare for the beginning of next school year, please take the time to really teach what a digital footprint is. Don’t do as many do, write in your lesson plans, so you can say you did it, then don’t. It’s important, kids MUST understand this.

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