3 ways to protect your child from bad digital footprint

A digital footprint is simply all your data collected online.  Whether your children realize it or not, they are contributing to their digital footprint each time they browse the internet.  

The things that they post, the sites they visit, what they like, and share online all contribute to their digital footprint.

A negative digital footprint can follow your child until adulthood. It can have implications for their job and college applications.

Hence, teaching your child good digital citizenship and social media etiquette is important. 

In this post, we will go into detail on what is a digital footprint, why it is important, examples of digital footprint and how to erase your digital footprint

What is a digital footprint?

With the rise of social media, many employers and universities have turned to the internet to find out about future applicants.

What is posted online can have an impact on someone else’s life.  It is important to understand that when something is posted it can stay on the internet for a very long time.

Whatever you do online, from the sites you visit, articles you read, the information you share, they all contribute to your digital footprint.

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Is your digital footprint permanent?

When I was in school, I remember my teachers saying “this will be on your permanent record”. I always wondered if all my teachers had access to that record.

In the digital age, the teachers would be right. There will be a permanent record of my activities on Google and social media which can be accessed by almost anyone

Not only can friends and school staff look at the things your children post, but college admissions officers and employers can access it too.

70% of employers say that they make a decision about hiring someone based on things they see about the candidates on social media.

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Why is a digital footprint important?

  • College Applications

Many colleges check an applicant’s social media profiles. Inappropriate social media posts can hurt a student’s admission.

Colleges want more than just a student with good grades, they want someone with good character.

  • Employment opportunities

It is common for recruiters to use social media in the hiring process.

They use it to gather more information about a potential candidate.

Employers tend to check the language you use when posting online, the posts that you share, and many others.

Hence, it is important to do a social media audit before applying for a job.

  • Cyberbullying

Having a bad digital footprint can be part of your permanent digital record.

It can be challenging to remove something from Google once it has been posted. This can subject students to cyberbullying in the future.

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Example of digital footprint in the news :

  • A dozen students from multiple schools in the Boulder, Colo., area were involved in posting rape memes, messages championing “white power,” and comments about wanting to kill black and Jewish people, KUSA and The Guardian reported. The posts resulted in the expulsion of at least five students from Boulder Preparatory High, an alternative charter school, according to the news outlets.


  • About 20 students at Bradford Preparatory in Charlotte, N.C., were reportedly suspended after “liking” an Instagram post that said “Bradford gon have a school shooter one day [emojis],” WCNC.com reported.


  • A small liberal arts school in Colorado has kicked out two of its students for anonymously penning offensive social media posts and sharing a screenshot from an episode of South Park.

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How to protect your digital footprint?

1.Think before posting 

Think before tweeting or snapping something to avoid any regret. Before posting, consider whether it will embarrass someone else and the consequences of it on other people.

Model this behavior with your children. Let your children know that not every moment of life needs to be shared and not every announcement need to be made public.

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2. Learn to say sorry on social media

As much as we teach our children to think before posting, mistakes can happen. With the internet on the palm of their hands, they may post something out of anger and regret the decision later on. if this ever happens, we need to teach them how to say sorry. Just like how we would teach them to appologise when they make a mistake in the real world.

If they have said something wrong online let them know to not be defensive, rather try saying this 3 things :

  • “I will take the post down ‘
  • “You are right”
  • “I see your point”
  • “I am sorry I did not mean to hurt you”

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This is an easy way to amend a mistake that have been made online, but this is just the start. If they have said something really hurtful or post things they are not supposed too then tell your children to appologise in person to the offended party.  They should then take down the post.

3.  Do not be rude online 

We would never accept it if children use the F– word.  The same rule applies in the online world. This extends to the use of emojis, gifs, and negative images. Using insulting connotations can make someone wonder about the person’s character. Insensitive comments, cyberbullying, sexual innuendos, and drunk images will raise a red flag.

College and career admission officers can go through your child’s social media profile when reviewing their application and can make a decision based on what your child post online.

How to erase digital footprint?

  1. Make a list of all the online accounts your child has, from online shopping to the different social media platforms they are on.
  2. Go through the list of accounts and delete profiles your child no longer use. If deleting the profile is not an option, then change the information in it so it no longer ties to your child. For instance, change the display picture and name on the profile account.
  3. Do a Google search on your name using an inverted comma. For instance, if I want to know everything about me on Google I will type “Parven Kaur”.
  4. If you find your child’s name being attached on a blog or website you do not want them in then contact the site owner and ask them to remove your child’s information or comment from the site.

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What to do if your child has a bad digital footprint?

  1. Do a name search

Type in your child’s name on Google and see what information comes out. Is there too much information? Are the images on Google image offensive?

  1. Request for delete

If you see your child’s images or personal information appearing on sites that do not feel right, then go to that link and request for it to be deleted.

It can take time to get a response but keep trying.

  1. Delete unnecessary social media posts.

Delete old posts that are unnecessary or may offend someone.

Just because something is posted many years ago, does not mean it will go away. Browse through all social media posts and clean up posts which are unnecessary.

  1. Set Google alert

Google Alert allows you to set up keyword monitoring certain phrases or words.

You can set an alert with your child’s name. Whenever your child’s name is mentioned you will get as-it-happens emails when it is being used.


How to reduce your digital footprint?

Here are some tips for parents to reduce negative digital footprints for your child:

1.Establish online rules and behavior

Before allowing your child to use an app or platform, set some rules. This would include not posting anything offensive.

Have clear consequences if rules are broken. This will reduce the possibility of negative digital footprint.

  1. Monitor their account

Check what your child is posting and whether it is appropriate. Think about what college administrators might think when they see the post.

Follow up with your child on the consequences of their post.

  1. Allow for mistakes

It is undoubted that children will make mistakes even online.

Instead of punishing them, talk to them about the mistake that was made.

Set ground rules on what is appropriate and what is not.  Decide together on what information can be posted.

Encourage them to ask you for your opinion and talk to you in case they have any questions.


Here are other tips to you keep children safe in the digital age : 

Tips for Non-Tech Savy Mums :4 tips to digital parenting for non-tech savy mums

Stop kids from being datafied : Are your children datafied from birth

Calculator app : Secret calculator app kids use to hide photos, videos and sexting messages


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