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Monday, March 14, 2016

Digital Footprints

My own digital footprint truly started when Myspace and Facebook was born.  I ventured into the Myspace world in 2004 and quickly ditched Myspace for Facebook the following year.  I was your average college student, posting photographs on Myspace/Facebook, commenting on others' pages, etc.  I had an email I used regularly.  I had accounts on several websites (including Neopets - throwback anyone!?).  My digital footprint was establish a little over ten years ago and it has changed since my first footprint.  

When I first joined the chaos of the digital world, I had footprints all over the digital world. I had footprints on Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, any type of social media, I had some kind of imprint on it.  It was rather easy to find information and I had no regards for consequences of the digital world.  I never thought about how anything might come back to haunt me (and thankfully, I never did anything online that I could possibly regret).  Now, I am much more conscious of what I post and have scaled back tremendously on the various social media that I once used.  I see students today playing with Snap chat, Yik-Yak, taking photos with their phones and texting to friends or posting it on social media. I see students emailing one another or posting comments that are negative or could be considered bullying.  I see so many students that believe they are invincible and will never get in trouble.  I constantly explain that whatever they post is there to stay and will follow them for the rest of their days. Even texts messages can follow them forever.  I believe that as teachers, we have a duty and obligation to teach our students "digital citizenship".  We are required to teach students how to behave properly in school, how to conduct themselves when on field trips to represent the school, or when there are speakers in the classroom.  We have to teach our students how to conduct themselves in the digital world so that the digital world portrays them in the best light possible.  We teach our students not to bully, but there are "cyber-bullying" incidents happening.  We must teach our students not to cyber-bully.  Our students are at the age where they believe they can't be hurt.  That because it's done over a computer it can't be traced back to them. They feel more confident in bullying or making poor choices in the digital world because a "screen protects them". They have no idea the screen doesn't actually protect them.  

The digital world is a new world for adults, but it's a world that our students have known all their lives. As adults, we lived in one world as children - the "real world".  Our students have two worlds - the real world and the digital world.  We see the need to protect ourselves and our privacy. Our students almost have no concept of privacy so they don't see the need to be private with things.  Today's children as soon as they're born have a digital footprint when parents post photos on their social media pages.  We must teach the concept of privacy - what's ok and what's not ok to post. We have to teach what cyber-bullying is and work to prevent it from occurring. We have to teach our students to present themselves in the best way possible in the digital world. We have to teach students that a digital footprint is there to stay, no ocean is going to wash that footprint away.