This lesson explores what it means to leave a digital footprint and discusses what a digital imprint is. It helps young people learn about their own online presence and activity, and make changes if they decide to. This lesson also includes an interactive worksheet and online activities.
Staying safe online means different things to different people. Knowing what your digital footprint is, is part of staying safe and healthy. A digital footprint is the trail of information you leave behind when you use the internet. Depending on your values, priorities, age, life stage, school, family expectations and other factors, you’ll want to set and keep boundaries that work for you.
- Talk about digital imprint.
- A digital imprint is the impact that your online activities leave on you, including things you see, hear or read and also things other people say and do to you online.
- A digital imprint isn’t necessarily good or bad. It exists and your thoughts and feelings about it and the effects it has on you depend on a lot of different factors such as your values, priorities, age, life stage, school and family expectations.
- What do you see, hear and read online? Are there things you feel like are a waste of your time or disturbing to you? What do your parents think? Do they have rules about what’s OK and what’s not?
- Introduce the idea of a digital footprint.
- A digital footprint is the trail of information you leave behind when you use the internet.
- A digital footprint isn’t necessarily good or bad. It exists and your thoughts and feelings about it and the effects it has on you depend on a lot of different factors such as your values, priorities, age, life stage, school and family expectations.
- Your digital footprint is made by things that are visible such as social media posts from you and other people. This includes photos, status updates, check-ins at locations, online groups and sites that you’ve liked or joined, and posts from other people that you’ve shared.
- It also includes things that can be learned about you based on your activity such as websites you visit, personal information you enter, messages and emails you send, and so on.
- When you really start to think it about, it’s A LOT of data!
- Do some exploration of digital footprints.
- Ask for suggestions of famous people to search for online. As a group on a screen that everyone can see, search for those people to give them an idea of how easy it can be to find content about individuals.
- Ask them to work in small groups and make lists of words that describe the type of content they find when they search for those famous people. Make different lists for each person. Share some of those words with the larger group.
- Have a conversation with questions like: Are these words mostly positive? Negative? How do you think these people feel about their online presence? How would you feel if all of this information was out there about you?
- Hand out the My Digital Footprint worksheet. Allow them to work individually or in pairs to explore their own online presence. Have them look at all the social media sites they use (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and also do an internet search of their names. What do they find? What do they think about that? Are there things they would like to change? Has anyone tagged you in something that makes you uncomfortable or gotten access to your accounts and posted about you?
- Reconvene the group and talk about what they found. Were there any surprises? Do they have any ideas for things they’d like to change?
What can you do if you discover things you don’t like about your digital footprint?
- Tighten your restrictions on social media:
- Only accept friend/follow requests from people you know in real life.
- Set privacy setting so that information about you (including images) is not visible to the public.
- Change settings, if necessary, so that others need your permission to tag you in posts.
- Delete things that you don’t want others to see. They may not completely go away if they have been shared by others or stored somewhere, but you can usually at least make them harder to find.
- Reset passwords. Make sure they are strong and do not share them!
- Carefully consider every time you post or share whether you want it to live on forever, because it might.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the impact of a digital footprint and digital imprint and necessary actions to stay safe online.
Additional Instructor Resources