Staff, students stress importance of curating digital footprints

A digital footprint is the individualized permanent trail of data from browser history on every device each user ever owned. Digital footprints and their importance have been ingrained into students’ brains, practically since they learned how to type on a Chromebook. Some students have caused detrimental effects on their future, simply because their digital footprint is not fitting. 

Learning Lab instructor Laura Miller said it’s important to become educated on what a digital footprint is. Miller said she bought her first cell phone in 2008 for safety purposes. Her first Facebook account was created in 2012. Miller said that overall, social media is very harmful. “I tell my daughter all the time, ‘Anything you put out there, no matter if you delete it or not, it’s still there. Someone has seen it.’”

Miller said students must be mature enough and mentally ready for the internet before they download social media. She said the prime ages of 12 and 13 are reasonable ages for a child to get their first phone. “My daughter got it right away. The second she got a cell phone she had to have digital social media. My son, I would never put him on any social media, but he finds a way anyhow,” Miller said.

She said that she thinks the anxiety teenagers are acquiring from social media is affecting the younger generations terribly. “The depression from trying to keep up with social media stars, to me, that seems exhausting.”

Miller said the school environment has also been influenced poorly by social media. “It’s peer pressure, not even around here but worldwide in general. I don’t like that. At all,” she said. 

Junior Lukus Vaughn said he got his first cell phone when he was in sixth grade. Sitting on the floor of his living room, Vaughn received the device as a gift from his parents and said he thought to himself, “Hell, yeah.” 

Taking the liberty upon himself to upload his first photo, he downloaded Instagram and went wild with the filters. 

Vaughn said he uses Snapchat mostly to communicate with friends and family. “I don’t think I could live without my phone because I need to have contact with my parents,” he said. 

However, the majority of his screen time is consumed by the social media platform, Tik Tok. “I realized how much more there is to the world to see than just Iowa,” he said.

Vaughn said he is proud of his digital footprint, but would never glance at the data if given the chance. “It’s just who I am now, Lukus Vaughn, I’m not the same person from a few years ago,” he said. 

He said sometimes he’s worried about how his digital footprint might affect him in the future. Background checks may reveal misleading information from decades ago. “I’ve sat and watched teachers and administration stalking people they are looking to hire, so I mean anything you put out there. It’s gonna scar you forever,” Miller said. 

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