The Parent Project

Task 2: Checking and managing your Digital Footprint

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What Size is Your Digital Footprint?

You have a pretty good idea of the places you’ve been in the real world. You might even do those “how many countries have you visited” quizzes, to see where you rank amongst your friends. But do you remember all the places you’ve been on the Internet – and what you left behind when you logged out?

We challenged our Digi-Parenting families to check themselves out online, see how far their “digital footprints” stretched, and think about how to manage that presence. Here are five things they found they all had in common – and four ways to help keep tabs on your digi-self.

Things You Could Put Your Foot In:

  • Old profiles:That stuff you wrote on Bebo back in the day, all three tweets from 2012, and those MySpace mistakes – unless you’ve deleted them, it’s likely they’re all still around.
  • A wide open front door: Relying on default Social Media privacy settings. Taking a lax approach to the tone and content of your posts. Prolific Snapchatting. And for one family, discovering unauthorised Apps attached to Mum’s Facebook login. It’s not deliberate, but it’s happening.
  • Comments and reviews: If they required some form of login or registration, they will still be there under your name – long after you’ve forgotten you left them. One of our families talked about replies to their comments, that included personal details!
  • Tag – you’re It!: Not all of your footprints will have been left by you. It’s possible you’ve been tagged in others’ photos or posts – which could be a problem if they have low privacy settings; especially if it’s a Snapchat that your “friend” took a screenshot of. But it’s not all bad: One family found some great school newsletters, sports and athletics posts about their kids.
  • Hey – that’s mine!: One surprise our families found was the idea that photos and ideas they posted through certain sites and Apps could be used without their express permission.
  • Four Steps To A Cleaner Footprint:

    1. 1. Give your footprint a Spring Clean. Google yourself and your children – Sites, Images, Videos – and even try a reverse image search. Do it once a month if you can, or make a date to check it when the seasons change.
    2. 2. Check your privacy settings. Many Social Media companies regularly change or update privacy settings as a matter of course. Check your Facebook, Twitter, TradeMe and other accounts to make sure you’re still set the way you think you are.
    3. 3. Understand what you’re giving away. Explore what your favourite sharing sites plan to do with your images and posts. Flickr, Instagram, Facebook and others all have specific Terms and Conditions about who owns the content you post. One option to help protect your pictures is to use Creative Commons on your images (find out more about Creative Commons here).
    4. 4. What Would [anyone] Say? Open a family discussion around transparency and honesty. Start with “think about what Nana / your boss / your teacher would say about your posts”. And make sure you (a) have a plan, and (b) everyone feels free to come forward, should something go “viral”.

    The thing everyone expressed in one way or another is that with some thought and a watchful eye, your family’s Digital Footprint can grow to have a big impact on the world – without anyone’s toes being stepped on.

Find out more about keeping your family safe online here.

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