Your child’s digital footprint is a record of their online activity. This may include, browsing, interacting with others on social media, email or uploading any type of content online.
An ACMA report revealed Australian children aged 9-16 are some of the highest users of internet in the world. Approximately 83% of adolescents access the internet at least 3 times daily.
In today’s online presence, a digital footprint creates a reputation from whenever children decide to step online.
A digital footprint is permanent and difficult to remove from online. It is also important for managing your child’s security and privacy.
Therefore, it is important your child understands how to be careful when engaging in online activity.
There are distinct types of digital footprints:
A ‘Passive’ digital footprint is data your child leaves behind unintentionally.
This may include their IP address, approximate location, browser history or information about preferences of products and lifestyle.
An ‘Active’ digital footprint includes information your child intentionally shares.
This includes social media posts and comments, email or online messaging.
A personally identifiable footprint is one that contains information that can be traced back to your child’s real name.
This includes any information that can be used to trace your child’s name, date and place of birth, educational or employment information.
Your child’s data trail can be collected by interested parties whether they intended to leave a digital footprint or not.
Your child’s information and data is very difficult to remove once it is online.
This is because once content is published online or obtained passively, it is difficult to know where information is stored or leaked.
The best way to embrace your child’s digital identity is to ensure they are managing their online presence and minimising their digital footprint.
There are a few ways your child can manage their digital footprint.
Your child can modify their privacy settings for a variety of different accounts.
School Choice has a guide to assist parents utilising in-app privacy functions on social media.
Have a discussion about their boundaries online and make sure they do not overshare personal information or details.
Ensure your child understands the importance of being kind and respectful even online.
Anyone who posts content, comments, likes or reactions online could be considered a ‘publisher’ of content.
This will help your child manage their online presence as even a ‘like’ or a message may be something to think about before engaging.
A lot of the content children ‘publish’ online can be hard to erase or track in the future.
Data including websites, use of mobile apps, participation in networks and forums, gaming and entertainment are all available to Internet Service Providers or other interested parties.
This is irrespective of whether your child was using a private or ‘incognito’ browser or deleted their browsing history.
Using google to search your child’s name is a great indication of their current digital footprint.
Give them the opportunity to delete any old or inactive accounts they may come across in the search.
A google search may help track the more visible online content. Your child can remove any inappropriate images, posts or comments.
Despite this, most content remains on the internet even once removed. The best way to ensure a clean digital footprint is to prevent publishing or engaging with inappropriate content.
Digital footprints now play a role in people’s employment and educational opportunities.
Employers may check your child’s digital footprint during the recruitment process.
In 2017, 10 American teenagers had their Ivy League School admission rescinded due to online behaviour in a Harvard Facebook group.
Digital citizenship is now considered as important as your child’s offline reputation.
Your child’s digital footprint could also pose serious security risks including fraud if left unchecked.
The concept of ‘digital footprint’ is not intended to scare parents. Creating a digital presence has become a rite of passage.
The most important factor for parents is to make sure their child’s digital footprint is positive.