Digital Footprints — That’s What It’s All About

many footprintsIf you ask a current fifth grader, he or she might say that the only topic I know much about is digital footprints, because I talk to students about these tiny digital trails as often as possible. But here’s the conundrum. I don’t talk about the topic nearly enough.

Despite being a devoted device and technology geek, I remain concerned about the digital footprints that kids (and we adults) leave all over the web. And I worry especially about the apps that kids use — even when they set strong privacy settings. I want students to understand digital footprint issues so well that they become curators of the profiles that they create all over the virtual world — thinking carefully each time they decide to share and forward information.

Last year one of my early posts on this “class-on-a-blog” described how to begin a family digital footprint conversation by exploring Google Dashboard and noting how Google collects information about the tools that we use. To continue the discussion, you can also check out this digital footprint video from Harvard’s Berkman Center.

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SnapChat! Instantly Deletable Images? Well Not Exactly…

Snapchat: the free mobile app that promotes itself as a disappearing act.

snapchat2

Visit the Snapchat site.

Teens and, yes, some tweens are now playing with Snapchat because it’s designed to make pictures disappear at their destination — in ten seconds or less.

I’ve tried to use the app, and pictures really do disappear. Voilà! The content is gone. So does this mean a child (or an adult) can go ahead and send all sorts of pictures?

Well, not exactly. Read A Warning about SnapChat, Teenagers, and Online Photo Sharing, appearing on February 11, 2013 over at the Forbes website.

After downloading and installing the Snapchat app on a mobile phone, a user chooses a picture, text, or drawing and decides how long to allow the a picture to reside on the recipient’s screen — anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds. For Snapchat to work the sender must trust that the recipient will allow the picture to delete and that the recipient will be trustworthy and respect the wishes of the sender. Any user is supposed to be 13 or older.

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Getting to Know Instagram: Getting Adults Up to Speed

In a matter of weeks last spring quite a few older elementary and younger middle school children whom I know jumped on the Instragram bandwagon, and they continue to have fun with it. The social networking photography app, now owned by Facebook, lives on their wireless devices, making it easy to use without getting encumbered with computers. Just a few days ago a colleague of mine commented, “Instagram is the new Facebook!”

instagramThe minimum age for the Instagram app is 13 (COPPA regulations), but that hasn’t stopped the site from attracting many children younger than that, often with their parents’ permission. While I tend to be someone who takes age requirements seriously, many parents, after checking out various apps, are more comfortable than I am with letting their kids use sites when they are younger than 13 years of age.

The biggest challenge for adults is keeping an eye on the content and quality of the photos that their children are uploading to Instagram and sharing all over the place. Problems can occur when children err in judgement as they make decisions about what to share (and what not to share). Common Sense Media’s Jim Steyer, author of Talking Back to Facebook, speaking at GDS this week, described it as “…responding first rather than reflecting.”

What do children like about Instagram? Well, it’s instant.

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