A Student’s Brand Now Begins at Birth

No one would argue the importance of teaching digital citizenship as a part of any school technology initiative. Schools should teach students how to live, act, play and interact in a digital society.

Students must continue to be reminded that what they post online or send to each other can come back to haunt them. Encourage students to be careful when posting online, that comments and photos don’t go away, and that nothing is private.

During the first semester of the 2014-15 school year, Gaggle Safety Management discovered and blocked 283,368 references of sex and 188,563 mentions of drugs in student email, text messages, discussion boards, email attachments and computer files. Imagine, instead, if a college admission’s office or future employer found them.

While teaching digital citizenship can go a long way to protect a student’s future, it’s also important that adults practice these same good habits. It’s a hard lesson that the majority of Internet users of any age haven’t learned yet.

Parents, family members, and friends are posting more and more photos and commenting on a child’s activities, often without even thinking twice. These are often wonderful stories and comments, but sometimes they include a complaint about a particular behavior or a legal or medical issue, which also can stay with them forever.

Essentially, parents have been creating a history of their children, establishing an entire online identity and persona for them without even realizing it. Before parents put photographs of a child all over Facebook, Instagram, etc., they should think about how they’re creating a child’s personal brand from the very first post.

Consider conducting a parent session on digital citizenship, reminding participants that as soon as they start posting stories, photographs and comments about a child, they’re basically starting a personal brand without the child knowing. What’s posted could follow them forever. It isn’t a “digital footprint” anymore. Rather, it’s a “digital tattoo.”

Security concerns should also be discussed. As parents post cute photographs of their adorable children, they need to be sure that they’re following the respective social network’s safety and security protocols to assure that strangers can see nothing. For example, if a parent tags a photo while checking in on a social network at the local park, all it takes is one stranger to come across the post. Now they know that the parent and child go to the park every Wednesday, what both look like, and their names.

Opening up your digital citizenship initiatives to parents shows that you care. In addition, it can bring together students with their moms and dads so they can learn this ever-changing digital world together.