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According to AVG Technologies, an American provider of security software, over 80% of North American toddlers have a digital footprint. AVG’s research also maintains that 23% of children in the UK have a digital footprint before they are born because so many parents post sonograms (an image of the unborn baby) online.

“The first stage of AVG’s Digital Diaries campaign, Digital Birth, focused on children from birth to age two. The study, released in October 2010, found that on average, infants acquire a digital identity by the age of six months old. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of children have had their pre-birth scans uploaded to the Internet by their parent – establishing a digital footprint even before birth. The second stage, Digital Skills, was released in January 2011 and showed that for two to five year olds, ‘tech’ skills are increasingly replacing ‘life’ skills. In fact, many toddlers could use a mouse and play a computer game, but could not ride a bike, swim or tie their shoelaces.”


At school children must now learn about computers and the internet as part of their curriculum but very few teachers assist students in managing their online presence. Teaching students how to protect themselves, their reputations, and their personal information is critical.  What follows are some guidelines to help your students and their parents manage their digital footprints.

Encourage Parental Involvement

Most parents believe they are responsible for their child’s online education at the same time as allowing their children to surf the internet alone. Parents that wouldn’t dream of dropping their child off at the corner of the busiest street in their city to navigate alone, blithely let their child explore the web by themselves. The internet is a digital heaven and hell, with its content reflecting our world culture at its worst and best. Advise parents to closely monitor children online until they are in grade 5.

Avoid Inappropriate or Offensive Material

Once a person has created, saved and shared digital content it can never be deleted from the internet. “Offensive” and “inappropriate” are terms that children need help understanding. What is considered offensive and inappropriate in one culture or context might not be in another.

Manage Your Social Media Settings

Using your settings option on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, set your profile to private rather than public.

Search Your Name

Type in your name into your search engine or look up your name using www.pipl.com and see what comes up as your profile. Report any fake accounts to your social media providers.

Register Your Name on Social Media Sites

Even if you are not a Facebook or Twitter user you should register your full name on popular social media sites so that nobody else does. If someone else uses your name they may be able to match it up with a picture and pose as you.

Keep Track of Your Online Accounts


According to the Credit-checking firm Experian (url above) most people have an average of 26 different online accounts with five different passwords. 25-34-year-olds are the most prolific, with no fewer than 40 online accounts per person on average.

It therefore makes sense to teach students to get rid of unused accounts and how to securely manage their active accounts and passwords. According to http://mashedlife.com/best.php some good practices to manage your online accounts and passwords are:

  • Make a random and different password for each account
  • Do not use private information as passwords
  • Do not store passwords on your computer or in your browser’s password manager
  • Use ‘hints’ for sensitive accounts

Using Strong Passwords

According to Microsoft strong passwords are critical to protect your privacy on the internet. Here is Microsoft’s http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/social-networking.aspx advice for the creation of strong passwords:

  • Length. Make your passwords at least eight (8) long.
  • Complexity. Include a combination of at least three (3) upper and/or lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols, and numerals. The more variety of characters in your password, the better.
  • Variation. Change your passwords often. Set an automatic reminder to update passwords on your email, banking, and credit card websites every three months.
  • Variety. Don’t use the same password for everything. Cyber criminals can steal passwords from websites that have poor security, and then use those same passwords to target more secure environments, such as banking websites.

There are many ways to create a long, complex password. Here are some suggestions that might help you remember it easily:

What to do Example
Start with a sentence or two. Complex passwords are safer.
Remove the spaces between the words in the sentence. Complexpasswordsaresafer.
Turn words into shorthand or intentionally misspell a word. ComplekspasswordsRsafer.
Add length with numbers. Put numbers that are meaningful to you after the sentence. ComplekspasswordsRsafer2013.

More strategies for strong passwords

Test your password with a password checker

A password checker evaluates your password’s strength automatically. Try our password checker.

Avoid common password pitfalls

Cyber criminals use sophisticated tools that can rapidly decipher passwords.

Avoid creating passwords that use:

  • Dictionary words in any language.
  • Words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and abbreviations.
  • Common letter-to-symbol conversions, such as changing “and” to “&” or “to” to “2”.
  • Sequences or repeated characters. Examples: 12345678, 222222, abcdefg, or adjacent letters on your keyboard (qwerty).
  • Personal information that could be guessed or easily discovered. Your name, birthday, driver’s license number, passport number, or similar information.


When people take pictures with their mobile devices, location data is added to the image. This means that when you share a photo online, it is possible for others to identify the location where the picture was taken. Geotagging can be disabled in the settings however disabling can also mean that other functions such as using online maps will be disabled.


Do not use a mobile device or a computer to create, accept or forward naked images or images of someone engaged in sexual activity under the age of 18 as this may be considered child pornography. Child pornography is a serious criminal offence that can carry long jail sentences.

Log Out

If you using a computer at a friend’s house, a cyber cafe or at a library, make sure to log out of any social media accounts before you leave the computer station. Some people just close the browser and leave and then the next person who opens up the browser may be able to access your accounts.

Tools for managing your digital footprint

Older students may want to use some of the internet tools below to manage their digital footprint. Some of these cost money and others are free.




White Pages

Google Alerts

Privacy Choice


My Life

Remove Your Name

Reputation Champ