I’ve written before about the need for all of us — 21st Century kids and parents — to understand just how many digital footprints we create during a single day — from email and texts to social media entries to credit card purchases to travel to smart phones and smart cards of all sorts, and much more. Each year, when my fifth graders keep a family diary on paper, just for a day, they watch in amazement as the digital footprints add up.
It’s fun to use an old-fashioned paper diary, but a few other online resources are available to help individuals and families learn more and get a sense of just how fast our digital footprints accumulate. Check them out, and you, too, will be amazed.
— EMC, a company that builds network infrastructures for businesses, offers a digital footprint calculator, downloadable for Mac or PC. The calculator is a mini-program. After it’s installed it asks a user a series of questions — the answers are not saved — and then it begins to speedily calculate that person’s footprints. Once an individual fills in all of the blanks, the program calculates how many megabytes of digital footprints accumulate, and it offers a small calculator that keeps track over a period of time. You can watch the number increase moment-by-moment.
— Lisa Nielsen, the proprietor at the Innovative Educator blog features a digital footprint quiz. The questions on this quiz mainly focus on social media, digital images, and other digital footprints that have the potential to cause problems for individuals. While it’s less comprehensive than the EMC calculator, it’s a great tool, with its focus on social media and apps, for middle and high school students and their families.
Common Sense Media host this digital footprints video at its website. Another great video about digital dossiers (another way to consider accumulated footprints) was created at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid leaving digital trails as we work and play online and go about daily life using smartphones and credit cards — even just driving around in our cars. So learning to think about or digital trails in advance is critical.
So the the most important thing to consider is curation — thinking about what we want our profiles to reflect and paying close attention to what our digital dossiers say about us (and what we do not want them to say). Check out a post that I wrote some time ago, Spring Clean Your Digital Profile — with ideas about tidying up (curating) digital profiles. But remember, we can and should do housekeeping throughout the year and not only in the spring.