Digital Footprint & Reputation

  • What is a Digital Footprint? Simply put, a Digital Footprint is a trail of things you have done on or with digital devices and services. There are aspects (like location tracking on cell phones) that do not even require any user involvement. As your technology use expands, your Digital Footprints evolve into a Digital Reputation. Over time, poor online behavior can lead to a poor Digital Reputation which can take a long time to overcome.
    Digital Footprints can be useful. They can help systems learn about your interests and help to present you with useful and interesting things, that are specific to you. A Digital Footprint could also be used to show your good or appropriate technology usage.
    However, when controlled by an untrusted party who may abuse the information, a Digital Footprint can expose things that you do not want/need others to know about.

    Generally, a Digital Footprint can be abused in three main ways:

    1. Security - Information that could lead to identity theft
    2. Reputation - Information that could be embarrassing or hurtful to others
    3. Advertising - Information about your interests or habits that leads to targeted advertising

    As you use your technology, here are some helpful suggestions:

    • Take the "Long View": You may think you are OK with a communication you make today. But ask yourself if you will be OK with it in the future, perhaps when children (maybe even your children) or other family members see it or have to deal with potential repercussions.
    • Online Forms: Don't fill out an online form unless an adult provides guidance. Pay attention to the questions asked and ask yourself: "Why would they want/need to know this?"
    • Advertising Directed at You: Watch out for advertisements that you know some of your classmates would not be interested in but you are... For example, if you are interested in "ballet" and begin getting emails or ads relating to Ballet, that indicates that there is likely some sort of tracking of your interests going on. Ballet is not something that would usually be presented to the general public since interest in it is not universal. Ask yourself: "Why am I getting this? How could they have known that I am interested in this? And how does it make me feel that they can learn this about me?" Especially for adults who are involved in online commerce, this can be seen as helpful. However, everyone should pause and reflect about whether this action "reflects" you and your interests, or is attempting to coerce or dictate your interests. Do you "trust" the service that is doing the tracking? 
    • Don't Share Passwords: Do change passwords often, especially if you suspect that someone (besides trusted adults) knows them. Make them difficult to guess.
    • Logout of Systems: Be sure to overtly log out of computers/systems that you use in order to minimize possibility of others using your accounts/access. Alert: Many services don't actually log you out of a session even when you close the web browser or even restart the computer. Look for LOG OUT or SIGN OUT. Many of these settings are stored in web browser "cookies". It is a good habit to occasionally clear these cookies. 
    • Protect your Accounts: If someone is using your accounts, then the online behavior they exhibit during that time will become a reflection of you. PROTECT your accounts by logging out and changing your password. 
    • Don't be a Victim: If you receive something that you perceive to be "bullying", resist the temptation to respond. Keep the evidence (don't delete it). Report the situation to a trusted adult.
    • Don't be a Passive Bystander: If you see or hear of bullying behavior even if you are not directly involved, you should report it to trusted adults. Sometimes the victim is unable to seek help on their own for a wide variety of reasons.
    • Sensitive Questions: Emails that prompt you for sensitive information, including your password, should be scrutinized. When in doubt, don't respond. Consider the source of such emails. If you get an email from or from, do you even have any connection with those organizations?
    • Poor Grammar/Spelling in Communication: Watch for poor grammar or spelling... Sometimes that is a sign that someone from another country is using a translation service to convert text to English. That is not necessarily "bad", but should introduce heightened suspicion/skepticism.
    • You CAN be Tracked (and almost certainly are): Don't believe that you can't be followed/tracked online. There are many ways that you leave a footprint, some you may have limited or even no awareness of.

    As adults working with children:

    • Share Your Wisdom: Kids often don’t understand how their actions affect others. Most adults do. We should teach kids to choose their words carefully, play nicely with others, and respect their teachers online - just as we expect with offline behavior.
    • Personal Avatars: Kids often assign "avatars" (a digital image of themselves or their interests) that they think represent themselves. If you are concerned about one that you see, you should ask them about it. There may be more to the story than a whimsical selection.


    Digital Citizenship Pledge

    We, the digital citizens, pledge to:

    • Communicate responsibly and kindly with each other,
    • Protect our own and others' private information online,
    • Stand up to cyberbullying,
    • Respect each other's ideas and opinions, and
    • Give proper credit when we use others' work.