I love this topic and always find it so interesting to look into. Before working for the University I was a primary school teacher in Scotland and Germany, and as a result of this was very aware of my digital footprint.
*(when I google my name a lovely LA based artist comes up first- can’t complain)
Why is it important?
I’ve heard many stories of families and students finding unsecured personal accounts of teachers etc which has caused many an awkward situation. From holiday pictures being shared, to private messages sent to teachers about school work after hours and rumors about private lives causing strange looks and giggling an individuals private life can be accessible to literally anyone if not looked after properly.
I view my online presence as an extension of myself and as a fairly introverted person, my online presence is linked to only a handful of accounts, many of them completely restricted to only my close family and friends. My professional accounts (linkedin etc) have always been kept up to date and relevant, but this my just be down to my love of MOOCs and online PD.
So, why is a digital footprint important to me? because I don’t want to share parts of my life with everyone, only the people I choose. Simple.
But… as someone with friends and family spread across the world I can also understand the need to have such accounts to keep in touch and see family pictures regularly.
Personal Vs Professional Vs Parents Vs Kids
For me this is an easy divide. I have separate accounts for each, under different emails. My professional account is easily find-able and up to date. My personal accounts are restricted and private. Easy.
However I do often wonder how others deal with this. A family member of mine is a yoga teacher, so her face and personality (private aspects of her life) are also the things that help her drive her business and create connections with people, so in this case the divide isn’t too clear.
There is also the hotly debated topic of children’s consent and that children born in the era of social media are having their digital footprints started by their parents often as soon as they are born. Many of my family members share pictures of their kids to our family group online, but this is a closed group and so only we can access it. I think many children will have a great deal of cleaning up to do as they grow to hide their private life from future searches against their name.
But alas there is hope!
As social media and digital presence becomes part of our daily lives, allowing us to be more connected and closer than ever from anywhere in the world I hear more and more talk about the importance of keeping up to date with digital footprints and securing personal content. I’ve taught a few classes about this in schools and most students are aware of stories or rumors about ‘someone getting hacked’ or unwanted picture sharing.
With great power comes great responsibility, and as long as we are all doing our bit to ensure that we’re aware of our footprint and what we are sharing the mess of personal data up for grabs should minimise…after all who wants photos of their fifteen year old self shared around the office?!