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Digital Footprint: A Letter to My Children

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To my wonderful Tweens,

When I was young, I have made several mistakes. But, I am lucky. None of those are googleable. My mistakes are safe with me. But, are you lucky like me? Unfortunately, the answer is NO.  If you make any mistakes in your adolescent years or later, the chances are that it could leave a mark here on the internet. As you are creating your digital footprint online, I would like you to be aware of these 10 tips for your safe riding online and offline.

1. To be online is like driving. 

Half of the children of your age use social media. The internet makes your life easy in several ways… just like driving. But, just like driving, you need to be educated on how to do it and you need to be careful. At the same time, you also need to be beware of the dangers caused by other people’s carelessness and arrogance.

So when you drive online, drive safely and defensively.

2. Colleges and employers will check your online profiles and behavior.

A few years back, the respected educator Chris Betcher said, “I can see a day in the not too distant future where your ‘digital footprint’ will carry far more weight than anything you might include in a resume or CV”. That day has come.

Soon you will start building your portfolios for higher studies. Keep in mind that your online behavior is also part of that portfolio. Build your online presence with the same sincerety with which you build your portfolio.

Your digital footprint is as important as your achievements.

 


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3. When you are in front of that screen, you may feel powerful. 

In reality, you are much more powerless than the powerful feeling you get. The freedom that the internet gives you to do anything online looks very powerful. The fact that you are away from other people does not give you the super power to share anything you want to say about others. It keeps records.

If you do anything illegal online, law enforcement agencies could come and get you. And yes, there is proof for everything you do. The search engines and other online platforms do provide it to the police and other law enforcement agencies.

The internet keeps records.

 

4. It is not just you, I should also be careful.

Be careful about what you post online. Your digital footprint will play a significant role in the opportunities you will get in the future. But, it is not just about you being careful. It is more applicable to be me as well. As a parent, I should be conscious of what information about you that I let the world see.

Parents are also responsible to keep a clean digital footprint of their children.

 

5. There is no actual DELETE button online.

Pressing the DELETE button is not an actual ERASE online. Even if you go great lengths to hide or delete your online activities, there are ways to find it out.

There are many online social media platforms that claim your posts disappear forever. If they were so reliable, how can we find some pictures and posts by your favorite celebrities on those platforms even after it expires?

It is not just the internet that keeps track of your activities, it is also your online friends.

Remember, there are no secrets online. So, take control of  your digital footprint.

 

6. Internet is not the place where you throw your frustrations towards a person.

No matter how mean a person is, please do not show your frustration towards them online. Being mean or spreading rumors about a person online is cyber bullying.

The simple rule of thumb is, if it is not right to say or do something in the real world, do not say or do that online too.

 

7. Internet is for everyone.

That means, you will find all sorts of people out there. Some of them do things that you wouldn’t even be able to imagine. There are people who steal identities, steal valuables, bully others or harm others under the disguise of online friendships. There are people who could manipulate you to do things you wouldn’t be proud of. They could be sitting anywhere in the world, but could cause great damages to you and to your loved ones.

Do not trust any strangers you come across online, however beautiful, handsome or wise they may appear.

 


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8. The internet is forever.

When you press that SEND button or PUBLISH button, it is ‘forever’. I am sure you know about that. It is you who should decide what legacy you want to leave behind.

Build a positive self image online. Who are you as a person? What are your qualities that make you yourself? Your online image should give the same or a better impression about yourself.

Haven’t I told you not to share your personal information with people you see on the streets? Please keep that in mind when you are on the streets of the internet too. Keep your private information private.

The internet is here to stay and hence your digital footprint too.

9. You get what you search. 

Do you always search about a particular topic? Do you always watch a particular genre on youtube? What sort of games you play or download? Social media and phishing sites are keeping track of all these online habits of yours. This also becomes part of your digital footprint.

If you observe you will realise that social media offers you contents based on your online habits. So, even if you want to curb some of those habits, you will continuously get tempted by those offers.

Curb your tendencies and temptations online to have a healthy digital footprint.

10. I am writing this now because this is the right time

After a couple of years, it is possible that you might not feel like listening to me. You may feel that your friends make more sense than me. I won’t blame you for that because that is part of nature and growing up. So, before you reach that stage, it is my responsibility to make you independent to watch out for yourself. When I grew up, I didn’t have to face all this. I know I am also learning these things with you. But, we will do it together.

No matter what, I will be there for you.

If someone is troubling you online, please do not hide it from me. My approach might be different from yours when it comes to handling situations. But, we will discuss it and reach an approach you are comfortable with.

Even if you think you have made a mistake, come back and tell me. I might scold you, I might shout at you, I might cry for you. But, I will be there for you to support you, to love you and protect you.

You will understand the full meaning of many of the things I wrote here only when you get a little bit older. But, you will be able to figure that out by yourself if you start now with the basics of creating a clean digital footprint.

With all my love,

Mom.

 

This article first appeared in www.asmanyminds.com.

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