Monday, July 15, 2013

Warning! Zombie Digital Footprint Sighted

Man, it's HOT in Minnesota right now. My Advanced Graph Art / Transformations book is 2/3 complete and much of the editing is done as well! Perfect day for vegging by the computer with a bowl of popcorn in my air conditioned kitchen, NOT doing that work.... maybe some other work instead... so I've been perusing Digital Citizenship curriculum for my students, bookmarking helpful pre-made resources.

Teaching students about their Digital Footprint is an important first step in Digital Citizenship. It's a good idea for everyone (students, teachers, parents, etc.) to "google" themselves every once in a while to see what kind of trail you're leaving. Here's mine.

I find it hilarious that I've been with Twitter for three months and it's my #1 hit, compared to LinkedIn, my website, and my Pinterest account that have been around for years. Twitter must have a deal with Google for prime searching.
You have to actually search my full name (Immanda Bellm) to get any references to my published works. And my physical address on didn't even make the top 5 search results!

This is a good exercise for students, to see what (if anything) comes up when they search for themselves. Adding key words like their hometown, school or middle initial might help for common names, to see if they have begun leaving a digital trail yet.

Once they start networking on Social Media, they will begin to find themselves in searches, which of course means... everyone else can too. Having a talk about limiting contact info, and especially about appropriate pictures/tags and language is very important, as well as what is not appropriate to include. They need to be told about the very real possibility that their future employers may search their name, and they will be judged on their digital footprint all the way back to their teen years. 
Begin the conversation EARLY. "Digital footprints" are summed up in this excellent lesson example from It's really worth watching the whole video.

An important next step is to talk about the latest trend of attracting "followers". Like in the picture above... I look like a total nerd compared to the goddess Amy Farrah Fowler. We have similar numbers of tweets, BUT... While I am following over 250 people, I only have 29 followers (follow me!?!? please!!??)... and Amy is only following 11 people, but has over 32,000 followers!!??? WHAT!?!?!? 

Seriously people, I know it's super trendy to try to attract followers to market your brands, sell products and network (which I am doing just that) but our students are on a totally different course of perceived POPULARITY, in the latest "tag for likes" and other following tools. Several of my students have comments on their homepage, "Follow me! I follow back!" to help newbies start gathering their own network of "friends", "followers", or whatever you want to call them. Many of whom they don't even know. You click on their profile information and they have their cell phone number listed, their email, and sometimes even a physical ADDRESS! Yikes!

One of my favorite examples is a former student who has TWO, count them... one TWO... pictures on his Instagram account... yet has 200+ followers. Why!?!? Because it's "cool".  My Instagram, on the other hand, is relatively in control... 99% of my contacts are people I know, and I try not to tag or upload pictures of friends and/or family on my sites without their consent. Students have NO FILTER when it comes to snapping pictures of friends, photo-bombing each other, or taking video without asking for consent. This is a big privacy violation, especially for school device usage.
LinkedIn is equally dangerous for adults, especially when we are looking for work... giving out copious amounts of personal history and contact information in the hopes of finding new employment.
The problem is... personal data on LinkedIn doesn't necessarily mean much! Take my "Skills & Expertise" for example... while this is pretty accurate to what I'm good at, 100% of these supposed "endorsements" come from people that I have never met. Yep, that's right... you can solicit endorsements, or individuals can look through your digital "stuff" and endorse you for things they think you are good at, without even asking your permission.

Pinterest is another of my big obsessions that scores high on my digital footprint search. There is a lot of really good image sharing going on, especially on the education boards. The thing that worries me, is that the general public doesn't even need to log in to see any or all of my boards. 

My "Silly and Often Inappropriate" board may be offensive to some people, even though I try to keep it pretty G-Rated. Likewise, certain individuals might create a "pretty undergarments", or "nude canvas paintings" board that contains some pretty sketchy stuff (however tastefully it may have originally been perceived). They get searched, not realizing their boards default to "public" and badabing! They get a nasty parent call that their student was looking at their "naughty links" and YOU get fired. (I have no personal experience there, thank God!!!)

I guess the bottom line for everyone, kids and grownups alike, is... if you're not sure that you should post something, you probably shouldn't. If your partying ways are some day going to come back to bite you in the butt like Katie Perry's "Last Friday Night" song, you might need to rethink your lifestyle. Kids especially can be bullied or peer pressured into doing or saying much less risque things online, whether in text, pictures/editing, video chat, you name it... but it can affect them for the rest of their lives. 

On that happy note, here are some great resources I found in my searches! Please, if you find more resources I have overlooked, tweet them to me @MandyBellm! (and then "follow" me so I can feel "cool" ;)

Yahoo Digital Safety Kit (differentiated by Age)

Digital Footprint Survey (for HS, College, Adults)
How's Your Online Health? (for professionals, how to build a healthy footprint)
That's all I've got for now! The sun is setting, I should probably go for a run... although I did DVR a few episodes of HGTV Star and Food Network Star... hmmm...