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Having a positive digital footprint

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We often focus on the downsides of children and young people sharing information about themselves online, especially if this is in a public online space and can shape the way people see them. 

Of course, it’s really important for children, and indeed all of us, to know what’s OK to share online and what’s best to keep private. You can also support them when it comes to managing their online presence in a positive way.

What is a digital footprint?

Your child’s digital footprint is any information that exists about them online for people to see. Examples include photos, videos and posts that they have shared, comments made on posts and information about them on public pages or blogs. 

There is also their passive digital footprint. Data left behind such as ‘likes’ on social media groups and their search history, known as ‘cookies’. These can be used for targeted adverts or for suggesting social media groups that may interest them. You can read more about the ongoing challenge to protect children’s data and privacy online here

Thankfully, there are ways to support young people with creating a more positive digital footprint. Here are some top tips on how to help your child make their online presence work for them.

Share with care

You may worry about the kind of photos and comments that your child may be posting, and that employers or universities may come across these in months, or years, to come. 

One of the most important parts of looking after your digital footprint is thinking about who can see any images you share, messages you send or public comments you post. Remember – it's better to have a good online presence than none at all. Instead of just holding back from posting inappropriate comments, ask your child to think about how everything they share fits into their online persona – does it represent how they want others to see them?

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. You can start by helping them to use the right safety and privacy settings on the websites they are using so they know who can see what they post. Have a look at these parent guides for more information and advice on various popular apps and platforms.

Get involved

A thoughtful and carefully curated digital footprint that highlights your child’s skills and interests could help them stand out in a good way.

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. If there is a particular cause they are interested in, encourage them to seek out the relevant organisations or charities online that they can follow or engage with.  

Keep on checking

If your child is working to have a positive digital footprint they should check regularly to see what it looks like and what comes up. They can search their name, or use tools on some social media platforms to see their activity or their profile from someone else’s perspective. If they come across anything that worries them, there are various organisations that can help you remove content online, depending on what it is. You can find out more about how to support your child with reporting unwanted content here

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 strong passwords and keep them private to keep anyone else from getting access to their accounts. Here are some more ways that you can help your child keep their personal information protected online.

Delete old accounts

Social media platforms go out of fashion quickly, and yesterday’s craze might be out of favour with your child today. Once you post something online it’s hard to guarantee that it will disappear completely, but it’s best to have a digital spring clean and delete any old profiles instead of leaving them unattended.

 

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

Updated: ​December 2020

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