Your digital footprint: Did you just step in it?

Photo licensed for reuse by mahalie on flickr
According to my Facebook news feed this morning, last night was St. Patrick's Day, and it looks like some folks had a good time. Other folks? I don't judge. Much.

Not long ago young people could mostly escape indiscretion's ephemera. Now, we all leave a permanent digital footprint, whether we want to or not. Even if your students have mastered Facebook's arcane privacy settings (they probably haven't) anything posted digitally can be duplicated again, again, and again.

Students today need to know that the web holds all kinds of personal information that college admissions officers and employers access and use to make judgements. This "digital footprint" can help them or hurt them.

Managing an online reputation is much more than avoiding cameras at parties. Students also need to know that they must present themselves as an authentic good citizen. Some may go so far to argue that an empty digital footprint is as damaging as a negative one.

Commonsensemedia.org offers several lesson plans to help students think about managing their digital footprints. Two have students play the role of a person who must decide between two otherwise equal candidates based on their online identity. Trillion Dollar Footprint is designed for middle-school students, and College Bound is for upper level students.

Both of these lessons will stimulate compelling conversation and may cause some to rethink posting that photo on Flickr. I'm talking to you mahalie.

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