All adolescents make mistakes. One could argue that making mistakes is part and parcel of being young. However, while previous generations also made mistakes, the mistakes made by the current generation of young people are easily accessible on the internet for all to see.
Everything you do on the internet – your posts on social media sites, comments on articles or YouTube videos, the websites you visit etc., constitutes what is called your ‘digital footprint’. In today’s world, your digital footprint is extremely important because of a variety of different reasons.
Anything you post on the internet will stay on the internet. Mistakes that in the past might only have existed in the memories of people who were there, or in blurry, easily destroyed photographs, are now posted online and broadcast to the world. Even if they are taken down, cached versions of web pages can still be viewed, copied, and re-posted. Images and text can be copied and re-posted. Even corrupted and deleted files can be easily retrieved.
College admissions officials and employers make decisions about people based on what they find out about them online. Lapses in judgement online have cost many people their jobs and/or their reputations. Also, if your information is not closely guarded online, you could also be a victim of hacks and identity theft.
A good rule of thumb for saying things to people on social media would be to ask yourself if you would be comfortable saying the same thing to somebody in person. If you sign up to a website or social network site for personal use, make sure you set it to private and /or use a nickname so it’s harder to find you. If what you do online is positive, then your digital footprint will be.
Think about what image you are giving out when you post comments, upload images or videos of yourself and your friends. Search for yourself online. This is a great way to check whether anything comes up. When you stop using a website or social network, then make sure you delete your account so it’s not open to being hacked without you knowing.
However, all of this does not mean that you should stop using the internet altogether. Such a thing would be counter-productive and quite impossible. Parents and teachers should make sure that children are properly educated about the perils of the internet before they start using it. The internet can present a favourable picture of somebody just as easily as it can present an unfavourable one.