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Top tips on how to help your child create a positive digital footprint and make their online presence work for them
Young people are constantly reminded that the things they do and say online won’t go away. Often we focus on the downsides of having a public and permanent digital footprint, sometimes referred to as a digital tattoo because it's so hard to remove. But your child’s online presence can be just as beneficial as it could be damaging.
You and your children have probably heard that compromising photos or inappropriate comments on social media could hurt their chances of finding a job or getting into university.
But while lots of employers and universities admit to looking up applicants online, it’s better to have a positive digital presence than none at all. A thoughtful and carefully curated digital footprint that highlights your child’s skills and interests could help them stand out in a good way.
Here’s how to help your child make their digital footprint work for them.
1. Think before sharing
It’s not new advice, but thinking carefully before sending or posting is one of the most important parts of looking after your digital footprint. Instead of just holding back from posting inappropriate comments, your child should think about how everything they share fits into their online persona – does it represent how they want others to see them?
2. Use the right settings
It’s best to only post things you’re happy to make public, but that doesn’t mean there should be no separation between what you share with the world and with your friends. It’s natural – and important – for your child to share some things publicly and restrict others to a smaller group of friends and family. Have a look at this information about using safety and privacy settings on some popular social media platforms as a starting point.
‘A good digital footprint should reflect the things that are important to them’
3. Get involved
Especially as young people get a bit older, a good digital footprint should reflect the things that are important to them. If your child is interested in writing, for example, they could start a blog to build up an online portfolio. They don’t have to accept comments or posts from people reading it if they don’t want to. And you don’t have to share your own work to make your interests part of your digital footprint – the things you like and the people you follow matter too.
4. Stay on top of things
If your child is working to have a positive digital footprint they should check regularly to make sure it stays good. They can Google their name, or use tools on some social media platforms to see their activity or their profile from someone else’s perspective.
5. Be safety-conscious
It’s hard to have a positive online presence if you’re not in control of what ‘you’ share. Your child should use good passwords and keep them private to keep anyone else from getting access to their accounts.
6. Delete old accounts
Social media platforms go out of fashion quickly, and yesterday’s craze might be out of favour with your child today. Nothing posted online ever disappears completely, but it’s best to delete old profiles instead of leaving them unattended.
7. Stay careful
Your child shouldn’t overshare online in the interest of having a good digital footprint. They still need to think about using privacy settings and avoid giving out too much identifying information.
For some young people, like those in care, it might be more important to focus on privacy than building an online presence – and that’s completely fine. A positive digital footprint is a bonus, not a requirement.
It’s also worth reminding your child that their digital footprint isn’t just what they share, it’s what others say about them too. As a parent or carer, you might want to keep this in mind for your own posts as well. Read more on this here.
What is a digital tattoo? A guide for parents from CEOP
The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.
First published: October 2016
Updated: May 2018