There is a post about children and their online presence that is great, except for a serious omission. TThe post, titled “How to help children build a positive presence online”, begins by saying:
“Rather than just teaching children about internet safety and reducing their digital footprint, we should also encourage them to curate a POSITIVE DIGITAL FOOTPRINT which will be an asset for them in their future.
Today’s children are prolific users of the internet. Concern has been raised about the future impact of the DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS they are generating…”
including as evidence two articles (in uppercase in the quote below) which make the same, huge omission. Those pieces are all about, e.g.:
- “how to make your social media presence stand out”
- “employers googling candidates to check their identity and verify their suitability.”
- “Future employers will be digital natives too, [hence even more] likely to check social media”
All those three pieces, that is, describe quite well the pros and cons of only one category of “digital footprint”. They only cover what is by far the less dangerous thing, and the easiest to manage: the footprints that are directly visible by other human beings.
They don’t even come close to the fact that anything loaded inside any social network like Facebook is, by definition and without any possibility to “hide” or “manage” it, used by the social network itself, for purposes that may include:
- promoting job discrimination by age (or other equally “questionable” criteria, of course)
- Targeting Ads at “insecure” Teens
All this doesn’t mean that children should not “build a positive presence online”. It only means that building such a presence inside certain platforms, without negative consequences, is impossible by design. Children should do that, with assistance and supervision from their parents of course, only in other places (not other centralized “platforms”!), e.g. their own blog, associated to a permanent domain name of their choice.
For the record, here is my own proposal to build places like that.