I have been asking this question for a few years now. I wish someone told me I could possibly not get a job or get fired from my current job because of my digital footprint. I had to figure that out on my own, luckily not the hard way. As it turns out, over 80% of teens have a social media account according to Common Sense Media. Sadly most never google their own name to see what pulls up.
Is Bad Digital Citizenship Really That Bad?
Yes and no. Society is becoming more forgiving of inappropriate social media posts depending on the context. A potential employer could be fine viewing pictures of your teenage partying days, but not seeing complaints about how much you hate your job. However, digital citizenship goes beyond just a good digital footprint. Students need to become aware of very real consequences from cyberbullying, plagiarism, and inappropriate private messaging.
What Good Digital Citizenship Can Do For A Student’s Future
Digital portfolios and footprints are essential for professionals in the 21st century. Being a good digital citizen will give students more opportunities than those who broadcast their regrets and negative emotions online. Having a good digital persona will help strangers, friends, and colleagues have and keep a positive perception of them.
What Students Need to Know about Digital Citizenship
Setting your social media accounts to private does not give you a pass. Students think they are tech savvy until there is an update and the default setting goes back to public.
Deleting a post does not make it go away. Many students are unaware of web.archive.org, a site that keeps a history of deleted online content.
Before posting anything online, they should answer the following question, ‘Is there anybody I’m not ok with knowing this about me?’ It’s hard for a 14 year old to forecast what he or she wants people to think of them in 20 years, but answering “No” is at least a start in the right direction.
If you’re interested in more than just a few tips, then check out this K-12 Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence Curriculum from Common Sense Education. It provides everything a teacher needs to take on this tough topic.
I am excited to see the increase in schools offering classes covering digital citizenship. I am also worried we are too late for a lot of young future professionals entering the workforce. Ultimately students and adults need to realize they are not smarter than the internet. They need to learn an appreciation to the benefits and consequences of our digital society.