It’s easy to share everything about our lives online these days, but this can sometimes come back to haunt us. Here are some things you and your kids should consider so you head down the right path, leaving a positive digital footprint everywhere you go.

Digital footprints can last a lifetime

It’s tempting to share family moments online, it may be funny also, but how will your future teen feel about that cute toddler shot?

In 2009, David DeVore posted a video of his young son still woozy after a trip to the dentist. It went viral. “That was really the only time we thought, ‘maybe we should take it down.’ not realising, like we do now, that once it’s out, it’s kind of out,” DeVore said in an interview with CNN. Five years on, you can still view his son’s reaction. So far, as of 21 January 2020, it has been viewed over 139 million times on YouTube. In an age when privacy is becoming an outdated concept, it’s down to parents to decide where they’re going to draw the line. So where do you stop?

51% of parents who use Facebook to post about their children have thought about the embarrassment it could cause in later life, and 66% said they’d stop updates if their children asked them to when they get older. So, consider this: how will you advise your ‘future teenager’ on what’s appropriate to post if you’ve been posting embarrassing shots of them throughout their childhood?

It is a debate that could go on and on, who’s choice is it and what is to be uploaded on a social media. Could something you post when your child is three years old effect something they want do when they get older?

What is a ‘digital footprint’?

Our digital footprint is everything we share and do online. This includes all our social media activity – from posting statuses on Facebook to commenting on Instagram photos – as well as comments we leave on forums and other websites.

Most of this activity is harmless, but people are susceptible to posting ill-advised selfies or tweets that can end up impacting us in unforeseen ways. Imagine your kid being turned down by their preferred university over something they posted online years ago.

Thankfully, a digital footprint can equally be a force for good. With the steps below, you can help them to project a positive image of themselves to the world.

Five steps towards a healthy digital footprint

  1. Check their online presence regularly
    Type your child’s name into a search engine and see what comes up. You can also check their posts on social media by logging out of your account and searching their name. This shows how much of their profile is visible to a stranger online. If there’s more than expected, you might want to consider changing the privacy settings on the sites they’re using.
  2. Consider who and what they like and follow
    The accounts they follow or like say a lot about them. Whether celebrities, companies or social commentators, it will paint a picture of their interests and beliefs, whether accurate or not. It’s important they’re careful about liking specific posts online, too. A post might appear harmless, but if linked to a controversial or extremist group your child could be making an association to something more sinister.
  3. Nurture their creativity
    Social media and other platforms are a great way to showcase talents. Whether they’re keen writers and want to start a blog or they’re into photography and videos and want to share their work, encourage them to get online and get creative.
  4. Show off their achievements
    Having an online presence can be a great way for your kids to keep a record of their achievements, whether it’s a photograph of them receiving an award, winning a netball tournament or performing in a show. It’s an online memory book that can be enjoyed for years to come.
  5. Be aware before they share
    It’s important not to share contact details or post anything online that tells people where they live, go to school or hang out. Things that could give this away could be a photo in school uniform, an image that includes your house or house number – or a status saying they will be in a specific location at a certain time.