Debate # 7: Educators and Schools have a Responsibility to Help their Students Develop a Digital Footprint

"Your digital footprint is your new resume."

Children and teenagers are increasingly spending time online. Digital communication is supplementing face-to-face encounters with friends. This online activity creates digital footprints.

Last Monday’s debate about digital footprint was presented by Rae, Funmilola vs Gertrude, and Kim. Both the agreeing and disagreeing teams did a fantastic job in presenting their topics. I believe that teachers and students need to comprehend the concept of a “digital footprint” because students spend so much time online both in class and at home. Students should be aware of how they are being tracked digitally and what data they are disclosing online. Teachers should encourage children to use the internet safely and keep them informed about what they are doing online.

A digital footprint represents a student’s digital identity. The information could show up when someone (schools, prospective employers) searches their name online. Students must realize that their online identities might have an impact on their real-world life. A student’s digital imprint could be used by schools, businesses, and law enforcement to assess their character. The digital footprint of a student can have a significant and long-term impact on their life. Encourage pupils to become aware of the risk they face every time they access the Internet. Digital footprints now play a role in people’s employment and educational opportunities (Black and Johnson, 2010). In this context not having a digital footprint can be as serious as having a badly managed one. One way to address this is for schools to explicitly teach students how to develop positive digital footprints that will help, rather than hinder, them in the future.

Understanding The Impact Of Digital Footprints

We as a teacher or educator should teach students (primary and secondary) age-related concepts about the internet and technology like we do with any curriculum. Like we do with math, we start with the foundations and gradually build our way up until we can figure out the sum of x. I understand that teachers already shoulder a great deal of responsibility, but data shows that because parental guidance is unequal across socioeconomic lines, school counsel is a student’s greatest chance to leave a positive digital legacy.(Buchanan, Southgate, Scevak & Smith, 2018) .As teachers we need to adjust our pedagogy to include responsible use of technology. We need to raise learners’ awareness of digital footprints and encourage them to make informed decisions about the content they create or share online. This should not be seen as an add-on to our existing syllabus but as a skill that can be taught while developing language.

As students develop, it is essential for them to understand the profile they create will shape their future – both socially and professionally.

I believe that teachers are the first to tell their students; when new students arrive on the first day of school, they are children when they enter and adults when they leave! Whether we as an educator teach 3rd grade or high school, it is evident that our students mature throughout their time in your classroom. The main concern is that at a young age, children do not have the cognitive development to understand the longevity of what they put online (Buchanan, 2016). Researchers query their lack of understanding of possible consequences including security, privacy, abuse, predators and bullying Likewise with cyberbullying, research indicates that if students receive resources from adults that show how to successfully tackle cyberbullying and just having open discussions about it could improve their confidence to seek help when they need to (Mareez & Petermann, 2012).

Digital citizenship is a topic that is essential in the modern world. We are trending towards a society where more people are more connected, and as such, it’s vital that we are all aware of our responsibilities and able to navigate our own digital lives. Teaching digital citizenship means understanding the key elements of the subject and helping learners reach that same level of awareness.

I believe that teachers and schools can help their students take an active role in the digital world, educating them on the dangers and obligations that come with using technology. 

Digital footprints can be an asset or a liability for children. Building on their knowledge by giving them guidance in curating a positive online presence could go a long way to help children shape their future.

6 thoughts on “Debate # 7: Educators and Schools have a Responsibility to Help their Students Develop a Digital Footprint

  1. Thank you for the thoughtful post Fasiha.

    Our digital footprint is not only important for gaining entrance to educational institutions and applying for jobs, but for maintaining our employment as well. There are numerous stories circulating in the news about employees who have been suspended or fired for statements they have made online, photos they’ve posted, or events they’ve attended. It is critical that students not only create a positive digital footprint, but maintain it throughout their life. The consequences of their actions may be swift as companies are conscious of their own digital footprint as well, and the actions of their employees directly reflect upon them. Legal precendent has been established allowing employers to hold their workers accountable for actions taken outside of work (including what they say and do in social media).

    • Hello Matt, thankyou for your insightful comment !! I agree with your point that nowadays digital footprint is not only important for gaining entrance in educational institutions but also for maintaining our employment. So I believe that as an educator we should assist or help our students in educating them on the dangers and obligations that come with using technology. I am not saying that its our responsibility but giving guidance to our student to have a positive digital identity, will help them shape their future.

  2. Hey Fasiha,
    Great post! I really like how you included so much academic research into it! Well done! I agree with you 100% that digital citizenship is essential that and educators do have a responsibility to teach their students about it. I appreciate the statement: “because parental guidance is unequal across socioeconomic lines, school counsel is a student’s greatest chance to leave a positive digital legacy”. Most children attend school, so this is where these digital citizenship and footprint topics must be introduced and taught!
    Thank you for the excellent post!

  3. Hello Nicole, thank you so much for your great comment !! I truly believe digital citizenship and footprint topics should include in our curriculum. As I am belong from a developing country where digital citizenship and footprint is not even discuss. So I understand how not knowing about digital footprint impacting worse to our student.

  4. Thank you for your post. I think the points you raised about our digital footprint being more that just our presence online, but actually our digital resume is so important. We’ve move beyond whether or not we should be online and into the undeniable truth that the question has to be, what are we doing to ensure that our digital footprint represents who we want to be online. I also agree that not having a digital footprint at all can be just as harmful for potential employment as having a negative presence. We need to ask ourselves who we are and how we would like ourselves represented by our digital footprint! This really is why, as educators, we need to guide our students in understanding what this can look like.

    • Thank you Jennifer for your thoughtful comment !! I totally agree with you, as educators, we need to guide or assist our students regarding our digital footprint. We should educate our students about the positive and negative outcomes of their digital identity.

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