Parenting Teens and Technology (Part 4)

Section Four:  Protect yourself

Help your child understand the concept of  ‘digital footprint’, and think about what they can do to protect it.  Children think parents have eyes in the back of their heads, but now there are many more ‘eyes’ and the ‘eyes’ can photograph what they see and easily share.

“Tell your kids to be careful. Every move they make is now a digital footprint.   When every phone is a camera, everyone is a photographer.  When everyone has access to YouTube, everyone is a filmmaker. When everyone is a blogger, everyone is a newspaper.  When everyone is a photographer, a filmmaker and a newspaper, everyone is a target.”  Thomas Friedman, Columnist, New York Times

A young athlete suffered consequences from photos that reached worldwide distribution from the cellphone of another partygoer.  (Google Michael Phelps bong)  Most of us are not that interesting to a world audience but employers are interested in finding out what they can about potential future employees.

A survey by Harris Interactive© in 2009 for reported that 45% of companies surveyed used social networking sites to review job candidates.  Of those surveyed, 35 % reported deciding NOT to hire someone as a result of material found.  18% reported finding information that improved a candidate’s qualifications for a job. Source:

Posting Photos – Help your child think about what a photo says about them.  Compare the photo to something in a magazine.  What will viewers will think when they see it?

Definition:  Digital Footprint

The record of activity created in the digital environment.  (Source Wikipedia)

An  ‘active’ footprint is what a person decides to share about themselves, the pictures and conversations created and shared through emails, websites, blogs, games and social networking sites.  Digital records of phone calls, texts, and credit card purchases contribute to an active digital footprint.

A ‘passive’ footprint develops without a person’s intent, as websites track visits, friends or enemies share and post pictures and stories appears in an school and community newspapers.

Conversation starters:

What is your digital footprint? Let’s Google each other and see.

Let’s see what happened to Michael Phelps.  What can we learn from what happened to him?

NOTE: There are two things to learn from Mr. Phelps :

1) Don’t use drugs.
2) Everyone you meet is a photographer, a filmmaker and newspaper reporter.  (see quote from Thomas Friedman) Whatever you do can show up where we all will see it.  What do you hope people will see about you?

Written and edited by Elizabeth Schar for Adolescent Counseling Services



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