These Are the Best Ways to Minimize Your Teen’s Digital Footprint
Most teenagers are unaware that their online presence leaves a trail that leads back to them. Everything they do online is not only difficult to remove, but it can also impact their future. From applying to college to getting their foot in the door in a career, digital footprints can make or break a teen’s future and goals if they aren’t careful.
Good Digital Citizenship
Digital citizenship is the way you behave online. When you were a teen, you didn’t have to worry so much about the repercussions of your actions catching up with you. Teens today should be aware and use caution in interacting socially online. Social media is designed to connect with peers but can easily be used for bullying. That funny meme might seem to be worth sharing at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t affect you negatively professionally.
Be careful when choosing what to put out there in the digital world. If you’re unsure if something would be appropriate to share, take a screenshot of it and send it to a select few. It is essential to teach your teen that good digital citizenship will follow them into college and their chosen career path. It is not uncommon for colleges to rescind acceptance letters for behavior they see on social media platforms.
Dangers of a Digital Footprint
Cyberbullying is a harmful use of social media that is an ongoing challenge that will only worsen without proper guidance for our teens. More than 30,000 suicide deaths occur each year in the U.S. Cyberbullying plays a significant role in this suicide rate because it targets teens that could already be suffering from depression or another disorder. Cyberbullying might seem harmless to some teens, but written words can be easily misinterpreted and taken out of context.
Teens should be careful even when they are joking about what they say on social media. They are leaving a breadcrumb trail that will stay with them forever. It is doubtful that your teen would intentionally hurt someone, but ensure they know the dangers of how their words can be misconstrued. Tell them about the game of telephone where something is whispered into a person’s ear, and then it’s passed around the room. More often than not, the said phrase is not the same once it travels around the room. Teach your teen that their words matter.
Restrict Access To Personal Information
Set guidelines for what your children should share online and what they should keep private. Educate them on the parameters of safely sharing information. They should know not to ever share sensitive information no matter the circumstances. If they question something, encourage them to come to you to be sure before they enter anything they’re unsure of. Don’t wait until something happens to create guidelines for them. They should never share their phone number or address anywhere online.
Negative Digital Footprint Impacts
There are numerous harmful impacts that your teen’s digital footprint can have on their future. College admissions and military recruiting officers can and will take notice of your teen’s digital presence when considering their application. Employers and internships will also look up your teen online when considering them for a position.
Recruiters and coaches will look at your teen’s profiles when considering open positions on their team for colleges. Your teen is also at risk for identity theft every time they post online. Photos shared online are fair game for identity theft. Scholarships for college and internships often ask candidates for their social media profiles to peruse before considering them as applicants.
Anonymity Doesn’t Exist
Privacy doesn’t exist online. There is always someone watching, whether it’s an identity theft attempt, a cyberattack or the government through the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The ECPA authorizes the government’s admission to your files and folders online. The digital communications they can access are Facebook messages, email, your cloud and others.
The Library of Congress is saving tweets from Twitter for future generations. So, your anonymity is nonexistent. Urge your teens to stop and consider their content before they post it. Encourage them not to be impulsive and leave private conversations off of social media. Nothing online is temporary. Once it’s out there, it’s out and hard to remove even after it’s been deleted.
Enable Privacy Settings
Ensure all of your teen’s social media platforms are set to private. Make sure they have their location turned off on apps like Snapchat. They should know about numerous privacy settings if they’re allowed to use social media. Twitter has tweet protection where your followers are the only ones that see your tweets, besides the Library of Congress.
Apps like Instagram and Facebook have options to make your profiles private, so only people you choose can access the information you share. Keep track of your accounts and delete the ones you don’t use frequently. This will make it easier to maintain your digital footprint and gives you a smaller chance of data breach.
Social media has taken center stage in the way children communicate with each other. The game of telephone has become a thing of the past. Do you remember having to ask your parents to call someone long distance? What about call waiting or eavesdropping on your siblings’ conversations from the second phone in the house? It’s a whole new era now. Advise your children how easily they are susceptible to dangers online and encourage them to be selective and protected when posting content.
About the Author
Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you’ll find her in a yoga class, advocating for her children or whipping up something delicious in the kitchen!