Understanding Digital Footprints & Digital Reputations

When I was growing up, I didn’t have any contact with computers until my high school years. We didn’t have one at home until my late teens. Photo sharing and instant messaging didn’t exist yet.

Fast forward to today and there is a barely a day that goes by where my children are not on an internet enabled device! For now, they aren’t old enough to have social media accounts but that time isn’t too far off. Even so, we are well into our journey of digital parenting. My Husband and I are diligent in teaching the kids about socially acceptable behaviour and now we have started applying the same concepts when discussing acceptable online behaviour. When Social Media accounts are eventually created for our kids, they will immediately be starting to build their Digital Footprint one post at a time.

What is a Digital Reputation?

A Digital Reputation is how others perceive us based on what we have shared online over time. It includes how we represent ourselves in photos, the type of language we use in comments that we make, people that we associate with and even photos that others have taken, posted online and tagged us in. Every time we post something, we leave a ‘Digital Footprint’. It is like creating an online portfolio that represents who we are.

Yikes! Have you ever considered what your digital footprint looks like? Have you tried Googling your name lately? Make sure you do and don’t forget to check out the images that come up while you are there.

Could my child be affected in the future by their Digital Footprint?

Yes – there are a number of instances when someone may have reason to look up your child at some point on the internet.

A future employer might do a search prior to offering an interview or a credit facility could do a search before lending them money.

5 Things to Remind Your Child About when using Social Media

  1. Once they have posted something on the internet, it can be very, very difficult to remove and sometimes it can’t be removed at all.
  2. Even if you are only posting to a small group, posts can be shared by multiple other people and to large groups, very quickly.
  3. Be careful about the type of information they share about themselves or others. For example, their school name or address.
  4. Online information about them could be there forever for people that they don’t know to look at.
  5. Make sure they have set suitable privacy settings and that they receive notifications for photos that they are tagged in. That way they can review them and decide whether they wish to approve them or not

Can things be deleted?

Sometimes. It is very difficult to remove particular items. There are companies that specialise in assisting to clean up digital reputations.

What about the posts that you – the parent – decide to make?

Whilst some of us may currently have children who are not quite old enough for a social media account, it is possible that their digital footprint is already being created by us. How? Well, when a search is performed on their name, it is reasonable to assume that pictures we (the parent, who generally share the same surname) have posted of them on our own social media accounts will appear.

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