It seems a baby can fall in love with the digital world as naturally as they love milk. Before long they take their first footsteps with a milk bottle in one hand….and maybe an iPad in the other! We capture these special moments digitally and share them on social media with our friends and family, many of whom will eventually feel the greatest connection with our child inside the digital world. This is how simple it is to create a child’s digital footprint and develop their digital persona.
Over the next 10 years my daughter will become more active on the internet through her own activities and will leave her own footprints. Thinking about this gives me a realisation of that anxiousness my parents felt when they allowed me walk to school alone. Thankfully for parents’ today there is a solution for that kind of anxiety, it is called a mobile phone!
With the mobile phone, we also “gift” our child their personal space within the digital world. Whether they are sending SMS’, instant messages or communicating via social media, their mobile, iPad or other personal devices will give them the greatest sense of freedom. Unfortunately for many children this freedom comes with a false sense of empowerment on their digitised activities.
A child should know that though they are detached from the territory that is physically governed by their parents and teachers, their online activities are as permanent and visible as those photos and videos of them as babies that their parents posted on Facebook.
Every online activity leaves a digital footprint, that can be traceable, shared, copied and will contribute to the development of a child’s digital persona. This persona will one day be judged by teachers, prospective colleges, employers and by society in general.
From our own experiences, we already see that judgement on our physical persona is progressively being replaced by our digital persona, where the latter takes precedence to decide our credibility. This may seem unfair, as seeing and knowing a person through physical interaction should be the most reliable way of knowing their real personality. However for practical purposes having this interaction is seldom possible.
In my opinion it is harmful to society to raise a generation of children who feel it is acceptable to manage completely separate personae in these two worlds. The digital world can facilitate communication, openness and democracy but it is not a world where we should be apathetic to humanity.
The subject of digital footprints deserves a more in-depth look, especially for the welfare of the next generation; so I will write more posts about this and discuss the serious implications for children, unmindful of their digital activity….Stay tuned… 🙂