Digital Footprints

Today our kids are exposed to a great deal of technology. Unfortunately, this technology often invites bullying, predators and sexting.

During my Internet Safety-Cyberbullying assemblies, I promote the practice of “Think Before You Click!” advising students to look at what they are about to post. How will that post reflect their character, their families and their schools? During our conversations, I ask the students to put their name in place of a name in a cyberbullying-type message I display on the screen. Then I ask, “How would you feel if you saw that?”

In today’s world, it is very hard to monitor our children’s online presence. Parents and schools try to remain vigilant, but it is very difficult. New apps, online sites, and other kid-targeted technological changes make it extremely difficult.

We recently heard about a major sexting scandal in a Long Island school district. Two students have been arrested and dozens suspended. This incident spanned across middle and high school. Many of these incidents revolve around nude pictures that kids send to each other. It may start as a message between a male and female teen. Either one may send a nude or partially nude photo electronically. They often think it will remain between the two of them. Unfortunately, far too often that nude picture circulates on social media or through text messaging.

These sexting incidents happen as early as 10 years old. A few years ago, I was invited to speak to parents at the Minisink School District in Orange County, NY. In the weeks prior, a female 5th grade student snapped a topless picture of herself and sent it to her “Boyfriend” via SnapChat (an online app that allows users to share photos that will disappear within seconds). Although our kids are tech savvy, they are often too immature to recognize the danger in this behavior. In the Minisink incident, the female student broke up with the boyfriend but didn’t know he took a screen shot of the picture (screen shots allow the picture to be saved on a device before it is deleted). The 5th grade boy then shared the saved picture via Instant Message and text with many other students in the school.

It can be very difficult to stay on top of our kids with technology, but we can and must try our best. The most important thing we as parents and educators can do is communicate with our kids and students. We can explain how their digital footprint and online character is just as important as their offline day-to-day character. We need to reiterate that their online activity can have a large impact on their future opportunities.

Communication is key.

Think Before You Click!

If your school is interested in hosting a student assembly or parent workshop please, email [email protected]. The assemblies and workshops are provided on a volunteer basis. There is no fee.

workshop poster