Unfortunately, most of us, regardless of age and occupation, do not think properly about our behavior patterns online or the things we do, write and say. As with every online network, digital media stores information long after it has been deleted. It relates to our personal lives as well, let alone professional activity where privacy matters even more. As a rule, the majority of those who use social media and various online forms are young learners who are not skilled enough to think properly about leaving a digital footprint. If one thinks about the Youtube and Facebook users that are mostly attention-seekers and those who want to be on top of things, the dangers of sharing anything online are rarely considered until it is too late.
Are these mistakes typical for students alone? The practice shows that a carefree online attitude is typical to most Internet users, yet the mistakes made during puberty also have a negative psychological effect. In other words, are such mistakes "easy to Google"?
It would be incorrect to say that a silly stream online is safer than posting a forum message with negativity or harassment. Both cases can be recorded or saved as the screenshot, which turns it into something that an average person can have on record. It shows that educators must explain the simple rules of personal safety and the moral constituent that must always come along, leaving a positive legacy after every online session.
Keeping these important notions as the foundation, here are ten crucial facts and things to consider for students and parents alike in terms of how one should behave online and what are the footprints that we all leave each time we surf the Internet.
- The Admission Committee Factor. It is not a common fact, yet most people related to the college admission process always check your social media and online profiles to make their final decision concerning what they can find online. It is also done by the governments, so it is a fully legal practice. If there is anything questionable, the colleges have a right to reject your application. There are also cases when the admission committee may review the usual Facebook profile to check the moral state of a student, which is especially true for Christian colleges. It is also true for military academy applicants where the selection process is very strict. Even participation or sharing in any kind of posts that carry racial remarks or anything can seriously ruin the reputation of an otherwise bright student. It is a reason why a person should always take good care of what is being posted and what kind of information is left online. After all, there is no need to ruin your academic future and career!
- Never Hide Things. Remember that your educators, parents, and even friends know well about your online activities and it is always better to explain something you did or wrote than trying to hide it. As the practice shows, the majority of online activity always comes up when you least expect it. Most educators have seen the pages of students that they wish they could have never seen. Some of such cases included cyberbullies, swearing, reposts of racial remarks, and more. In some cases, legal action had to be taken.
- Learn The Basics. Since we have mentioned the digital footprints, it can also be approached as digital citizenship with the international laws that come along. Think about what it means to you. Come up with a list of rules that you would like to see in practice. We strongly believe that it should become a part of every educational curriculum these days!
- Create a Normal Profile. Think about it as a digital CV that has all the information about you with easy ways to know that it is you. Include the information that helps to see your interests, your future career plans, academic achievements, and so on. It may sound like a difficult task, yet you only have to start somewhere.
- Professional & Personal Profiles. As a rule, most people online like to mix both of these into one, yet think about keeping two for each cause. If you already have an online profile that is always active, no need to edit it or remove certain things. Just add guidelines for what you share publicly and what is seen only among certain friends. Increase your privacy settings and make sure that you do not share your party pictures with all visitors.
- Learn As You Surf. Think about good role models or professionals in your field who keep their online profiles tidy and good enough to visit for everyone. Think about how you would present yourself to the others in real life as you create your profile and write down the ideas or things that you could implement in your profile.
- Keep Private Things at Bay. Most importantly, never forget that what you post online will always remain there and that anything shared between two people can easily remain somewhere else. Hitting the "delete" button does not help much. Do not share things that are private or sensitive. Simple as that!
- Online VS Offline. Treat people online the way you would treat them in person. It is the basic rule that must be followed to keep things safe. If you are behind the computer screen, it does not mean that you cannot be identified or that you receive any additional privileges. If you have good things to say, do not say anything at all. Unfortunately, we cannot delete what has been sent even if we think we did.
- We All Make Mistakes. If you did something wrong, never panic about it. Find a perfect mixture between being open and careful. Trust only those people whom you know well, yet do not ignore those who are willing to cooperate online.
- Present Yourself Right. Your digital footprint is like personal branding that can help people see you in a positive (or negative) light. Think about it and let people identify you as a professional and as a person as well. Be human and share things that will help people and make them think.
Most importantly, be sincere, be yourself, and remember that what you share online is not something that you share among your friends sitting in the same room or at the campus cafeteria!