..

The Conversation

  • Written by Rachel Buchanan, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Newcastle

Rather than just teaching children about internet safety and reducing their digital footprint, we should also encourage them to curate a positive digital footprint which will be an asset for them in their future.

Today’s children are prolific users of the internet. Concern has been raised about the future impact of the digital footprints they are generating. While much discussion of this issue focuses on keeping children safe, little is known about how children manage their digital footprints.

While digital footprints are considered to be a liability, if managed well they can be an asset. Digital footprints can showcase identity, skills and interests. This is important in an era where employers “google” candidates to check their identity and verify their suitability. In this context, having no digital footprint can be as much of a disadvantage as having a poorly managed one.

The “Best Footprint Forward” project explored what children know about digital footprints. Focus groups were made up of 33 children aged 10-12 years from three schools in regional NSW. Analysis of the focus groups reveals children have strategies to keep safe online, but they need further guidance on how to build a positive digital footprint.

What children know and do about digital footprints

The project found, while children use the internet for a variety of purposes (such as homework, gaming, watching videos), communicating with friends was the most popular online activity.

Why children should be taught to build a positive online presence Most children in the focus group used Instagram just to talk to each other. Shutterstock

The children knew what digital footprints were:

  • what you put online stays online

  • people could find you if you left identifying information, such as your address or full name

  • employers would check your social media.

They talked about password security, not putting personal details online (such as their name, address and date of birth), blocking people who harassed them, getting advice from parents, not clicking on anything silly, not posting pictures of their faces. They showed awareness of the potential consequences of their actions.

The implications of their digital footprint awareness led them to try to minimise theirs, to try to be invisible online. They mainly communicated with one another via Instagram, using it as a messaging service. All but one child had their account set to private, and very few posted photos. They used it just to talk.

While the children in the study had a high level of digital footprint awareness, they are only aware of this as a liability. Their responses did not include any discussion of the benefits offered by digital footprints. Their re-purposing of Instagram as a messaging service suggests a savvy and pragmatic approach to the problem of, in the words of one girl in the study, the “internet always keeping it”. Educative interventions should be designed to empower and protect children, to supplement their existing digital footprint management strategies.

How to teach for positive digital footprints

Children could be taught how to curate their online presence. That is, they could be explicitly taught not all they do online needs to be hidden. Curation is about knowing what to display publicly and what should remain private.

While it’s appropriate conversations with their friends not be public, children could be taught that digital artefacts which demonstrate their interests, achievements and skill could be both public and identifiable. School projects, awards, pieces of writing, and digital artworks are examples of suitable things to be attributed to them.

Why children should be taught to build a positive online presence Putting school projects online can add to a positive digital footprint for children. Shutterstock

Teaching children to curate their achievements, skills and some aspects of their digital identity would help prepare them for the greater online freedom that will come with high school.

When should positive digital footprint education begin?

There are four reasons the two final years of primary school would be an ideal time to begin to teach children about positive digital footprints:

  1. they are lacking this information and were not aware a digital footprint could be a positive asset for their future

  2. children at this age are transitioning from predominantly game playing and video watching to more creative and generative uses of the internet and social media

  3. different parenting styles means not all children will get this information at home

  4. the strength of the cyber safety message they’re getting from schools suggests this knowledge could be built upon so children are given options about which online activities should remain invisible and which would be beneficial to have out there.

When asked what would you like to know about the internet, one girl in the study asked:

How can it change your future?

This gets to the heart of what’s at stake. Digital footprints can be an asset or a liability for children. Building on their knowledge by giving them guidance in curating a positive online presence could go a long way to help children shape their own future.

Authors: Rachel Buchanan, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Newcastle

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-children-should-be-taught-to-build-a-positive-online-presence-89855

Politics

Central and North Queenslanders overwhelmingly back coal sector

More than 80 per cent of young people in Central and North Queensland believe the coal sector and the jobs it creates are critical to the state’s economy, particularly regional Queensland.   Mi...

Senator Canavan - avatar Senator Canavan

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton on steel industry

Ambitious expansion plans make mockery of those who wrote off Australian steel industry GFG Alliance's planned rejuvenation of the Whyalla steelworks, and the Australian steel industry more generall...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

George Neophytou supports roads funding and more

Independent candidate for Gippsland East George Neophytou has pledged to support completion of duplication of the Princes Highway between Traralgon and Sale and to upgrading of the Sale alternative ...

George Neophytou Media Release - avatar George Neophytou Media Release

Business News

10 Excellent Business Ideas for Young Entrepreneurs in 2019-2020

Top 10 Low-Budget Business Ideas for Students in 2019 Whoever said that you should wait for 10 or even more years after your graduation to launch your own business? 69% of US citizens start their ...

Elsa Avendano - avatar Elsa Avendano

The 1-Page Marketing Plan

SKIP BUSINESS SCHOOL. READ THIS NEW BOOK INSTEAD. Named as one of the “10 best marketing books for small business owners” by The Huffington Post.   MEDIA RELEASE: MELBOURNE, DECEMBER 13, 2018 —...

Claire Marshall - avatar Claire Marshall

How to Empower Your Employees in 2019

Employee empowerment is the focus of many employers in this present day. The reality is that although you may hire competent and qualified professionals, you still need to invest in building them up...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

Road Trip On Your Mind? Keep These Aspects In Mind As Well

Take a Road Trip! The great road trip. Movies are made of this type of freedom. The roads are calling and you are feeling the need for a road trip. Join millions of other people who enjoy the great o...

News Company - avatar News Company

Best Short Term Accommodation in Brisbane

Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland in Australia is known for its museum and Science center. With a lot of creative spaces and gardens on the riverside, it is a magnificent and popular destinat...

News Company - avatar News Company

Best Short-term Accommodations in Sydney

If you are looking to spend a night or two in the sprawling city of Sydney, you might be in need of a lodging place or hotel to stay. We would like to give you here a list of the best short term acc...

News Company - avatar News Company