How can I check my family’s digital footprint?
2 experts have answered
The good news is that it is surprisingly easy to check your ‘digital footprint’ – the binary breadcrumb trail that you leave in cyberspace every time you’re online. The bad news is that it is surprisingly easy for any old stranger to check yours or your child’s digital footprint. It’s no longer the domain of shadowy intelligence agencies and hackers.
Everyone ‘Googles’ themselves; entering their name into the omnipotent search engine to see what people are saying about them or, more likely, about their American namesake serving time for armed robbery. You may have even seen yourself advertising a foreign supermarket.
This is an inexact science though, and it’s far more revealing to use a data search-aggregator like 123people.co.uk. Sites like this delve into the deepest recesses of the web and present the information they find in a very easy to read format. The trouble is anyone can search for anyone. A quick search on my own name reveals old and current addresses and telephone numbers, as well as my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and even pithy emails I sent to the Guardian sports desk seven years ago.
Although there are measures you can take to stop certain bits of information showing up in searches, unless the data is removed at source those embarrassing photos of you drunk at someone’s wedding will continue to haunt your online life. However, embarrassment may be the least of your worries if your child has uploaded personal information or inappropriate pictures of themselves.
Every day, and in every city, children are being bullied, excluded by their peers, and even being contacted by strangers because of data they uploaded that they will never be able to permanently delete. Check your child’s digital footprint with them, and remind them that sharing data online is little better than handing it to a stranger in the street.
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I definitely agree that "Googling" yourself and your children is an amazing first step. Depending on the age of your child, it would be a productive and transforming activity to do together (although I'd suggest checking yours alone first). Should you find something negative then you and your child will have a conversation topic like no other and one that will providebenefitsfor years to come. Children need to be made aware that NOTHING is private in the digital realm and that even conversations that were perceived to be private can be made public at any given time. It only takes seconds to right-click and save an image. Even if it has been deleted from any given account it can easily be reupped and distributed if it had been previously saved. Images are forever.
TIP: if you find something negative on Google then start the process of flooding the internet with good news. Celebrate others, share knowledge, offer advice have others say good things and even try to get onto the pages of others and other media. Be a could citizen and samaritan.As the good saturates the Google search the negative will bepusheddown. People don't really look beyond the third page so flush the negative out with positive.
Check out my blog post on Raising Responsible Digital Citizens. I created a presentation last year to accompany the CODE Parent Toolkit, which provides a plethora of strategies for parents to work interactively with their children.
Here is a list of some of the tools you could use yourself and with your children to identify and clean your digital footprint and to help your children do the same.
Reppler is an amazing web-based tool that anazlyzes your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts for language, activity, imagery, and so much more. It provides you back with a visual representation of your activity and what you can do to clean it up. This is an invaluable tool.
Sign up for Google alerts and you can have the service send you an email message any time that you or your children are mentioned online. This way, you'll always know when someone is "talking" about you or your children on the web.
Socioclean is currently offline but is another great tool like Reppler foranalyzingand cleaning social media accounts.
StatusCloud creates a word cloud from words found on your Facebook status and represents them by frequency. Words that are used the most are represented larger and darker than the rest. If there is any inappropriate or choice language on your site you will easily see it with this tool. You then would have the opportunity to go in and remove the language so as to better represent yourself in an online space. There is also a service for Twitter -http://tweetcloud.icodeforlove.com/
All of these tools will provide you and your children with anopportunityto sit down and work together towards having a positive digitalidentity- one that will follow you all throughlifeon a far grander stage than the physical world ever could be.