How Many Digital Footprints Does Your Family Make?

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 3.12.51 PMHave you ever thought long enough about digital footprints to imagine how many digital tracks family members or students make in a day or two?

Early in the school year fifth graders and their parents kept a short diary, estimating the footprints in a range of categories and then returned to school with the results. Footprints were estimated for sending texts, banking, receiving texts, purchasing groceries, cell phone calls, online banking, web sites, online purchases, and about a dozen more categories.

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Privacy Matters So Talk With Kids About It

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After recent news reports about the National Security Agency (NSA) and its data collecting, we adults are thinking much more about the lack of privacy in our lives. We need to remember, however, that including children and adolescents in the conversation is important if they are to become competent and confident digital citizens.

With our online profiles, social media accounts, mobile devices, and files saved to the cloud, almost no one doubts that we have less privacy; however, what is an ideological or big discussion issue for adults is far more complicated and abstract for children. For most adults the sentinel issue — how much data collection intrudes on a family’s or individual’s personal life — is a primary focus. The issue for children, on the other hand, is that without basic understanding of privacy concepts they lack the information and the skills that they need to recognize and avoid potential problems.

Many years ago my parents designated important topics for dinner table conversations — broad subjects that we recycled again and again as the four of us shared family meals. When one or the other parent said, “We should talk about that at dinner,” my brother and I knew it was something that Mom and Dad wanted us to take seriously.

Today children and adolescents need to experience this same type of dinner table conversation to help them learn about privacy and develop strategies for maintaining as much of it as possible.   Continue reading

Spring Clean Your Digital Profile

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Download the document at A Platform for Good.

The idea of spring cleaning each individual’s digital profile is terrific — something for parents and teachers to do themselves and then share with children.

Just like we tidy up our homes and our gardens in March, April and May, it’s a good time to put our digital domiciles on the to-do list. Paying attention to the upkeep of our digital footprints and devices allows us to clean up and polish online images and minimize potential problems on our devices and gadgets. In the process we learn a lot about ourselves, but also about the details that others can learn about us online.

So check out the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) digital life spring cleaning mini-poster over at the organization’s newish web space, A Platform for GoodFOSI designed A Platform for Good as an informational site that helps  parents, teachers, and teens connect, share, and do good online.  The website’s about page shares this thought about its mission:

Our vision for A Platform for Good is to start a dialogue about what it means to participate responsibly in a digital world. While recognizing the potential risks, we will celebrate technology as a vehicle for opportunity and social change.

The clean-up-your-digital-life mini-poster, available by link or download, asks each of us take some time to dust off our online lives. Suggestions include ensuring that our passwords are strong, Googling ourselves to see what comes up from a search, and examining our devices to be sure that they are secure and up-to-date. The Platform for Good document also encourages individuals — adults and children — to evaluate the privacy settings on any social network accounts (many adults and children reside on these sites as if they are second homes or at least daily digital playgrounds).

So why should we go through this process?          Continue reading

Digital Footprints: Changing What We Teach

Check out Richardson’s Book.

Recently, after reading Will Richardson’s article Footprints in the Digital Age, I began thinking about how much attention we pay to online safety and security without thinking nearly as much about teaching kids how to be literate consumers and competent creators of content. Richardson’s article started me thinking about how I might refine the way I teach digital citizenship to fifth graders.

While safety and security will never be left out of  the curriculum, the 2008 Educational Leadership article  convinced me to put more effort into helping my students think of digital footprints as only one part of the digital life equation. The other part of this equation involves teaching children to think proactively about the online narratives that they are creating and helping them begin to understand how other people will be searching for each of them — and for appropriate reasons. My students and their parents need to become curators of the digital content in their profiles, just as any highly skilled museum curator creates an exhibition.

A strong digital profile, Richardson writes, “Google’s well.”        Continue reading