In Defense of the Digital Footprint

Image from acruas via flickrAt least once a day, I hear it maligned – the digital footprint. I’m not sure when, but at some point in the not-so-distant past the digital footprint became a cultural boogeyman.

Hiding under the bed of every child’s future is a digital footprint ready to reveal the darkest mistakes and actions of their past to any future employer, partner, loan officer, or in-law who knows how to google.

It may sound like hyperbole, but listen the next time anyone warns children or warns teachers to warn children of their digital footprints and the tracks they can leave. From folks who love kids and see only the best versions of who they are becoming you will hear language that makes it sound like any kid with an Internet connection is immediately drawn to deviance, felonious acts, and sins of untold peril.

Instead, let’s flip the script of how we talk about students’ (and adults’) digital footprints. Let’s remind people that they have an opportunity to leave tracks online that speak to the kind, creative, intelligent, wise, and collaborative people they are in the physical world.

Instead, let’s not frame their actions in what we would hope them not to do but in the opportunities of what they can do and the imprint they can leave on online spaces.

Instead, let’s ask them to think of the Internet of the place and ask what community service they can perform.

Yes, there are issues of safety. Yes, people make mistakes online. Wouldn’t it be better, though, if an individual’s mistakes were awash in accompanying links to the myriad examples of how they’ve leveraged their connection to the world to do something good?

Talk to students about digital footprints, yes. Just make sure you’re reminding them those footprints can lead to more than depravity.

3 thoughts on “In Defense of the Digital Footprint

  1. Thank you for posting this! I agree we need to strike a balance when we discuss digital footprint with students. It wouldn’t hurt to shift the balance of the discussion to the positive side and thereby hopefully instill wise use of online publishing/posting as the default for young people.

    My own frustration with focusing on the negative led to this blog post a couple of years ago. I included ideas for how schools can help students leave positive tracks online. Here is a link in case anyone is interested:
    http://edtechsandyk.blogspot.com/2012/03/trying-to-ban-facebook-is-not-answer.html

    Thank you again for promoting this topic!

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