Family Resources on Protecting Your Digital Footprint

Project and Purpose

There are often hidden “footprints” left when someone uses the internet, students will learn about the types of footprints they might unknowingly leave behind.

Essential Questions

Why is it important to consider what your digital footprint says about you?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students analyzed their digital footprints and learned about the potential implications of social media posts. In class students discussed how different internet platforms can save and use personal digital information and some techniques for protecting private information. In groups used various scenarios to assess the potential results of not accounting for how personal information may be used.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

While internet enabled devices provide many useful and helpful tools for living in society, much more information is readily available about individuals, including young people. Understanding how various internet platforms may use, store, and share information about any person is essential for modern living. Using the internet wisely and appropriately is important for all youth to learn.

Conversation notes:
Trying to balance safety and value while using social media and internet connected devices will continue to challenge parents and mentors. Rules and expectations frequently must be reviewed and adapted as adolescents grow. Remember that despite what as sometimes said, adolescents do respect the opinions of parents and mentors, so continue conversations.

The Internet Society was the primary source for student discussion in class

Common Sense Media provides a variety of useful family tools regarding media

Constructive Conversation Starters

The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.

Were there any surprises that came up about internet privacy in class? Why did this surprise you? If there were no surprises, what were some things that others in your class seemed surprised to learn? Discuss.

What do you think most people do not know about privacy and the internet? Why do you think people are unaware of these things?

Visit the Common Sense Media website (see above) and choose a topic of importance under the “Parent Tips” tab. Discuss the topic of your choice based on the needs of the family and assess your family’s situation compared to recommendations provided. Are there any changes needed to our family’s internet and social media expectations? Why or why not? Make changes as necessary. [Return to this exercise as necessary.]

School to Home Resources on Protecting Your Digital Footprint




1. Draw or post a picture of a footprint on a visible area. Ask students to put their comments about your artistic talents aside and discuss what we can learn about someone from his/her footprint. Be sure to go beyond the basics of shoe size and how the person walks; the discussion should include the use of footprints to discover information in crime scenes and in missing person cases, to determine medical diagnoses, to create metaphorical references, to create art, etc.

2. Transition to a discussion of digital footprints. (According to, your digital footprint is everything you leave behind as you use the Internet. Comments on social media, Skype calls, app use, and email records are all part of your online history and can potentially be seen by other people or tracked in a database.) How is a digital footprint different than a footprint one might make in the sand or in cement?

3. Ask students what they know about the different ways we leave digital footprints and share the following ways from Internet Society:
Websites And Online Shopping
Retailers and product review sites often leave cookies on your system which can track your movement from site-to-site, allowing targeted advertisements that can show you products you’ve been recently reading about or looking at online.

Social Media.
All those Retweets, and Facebook comments (even private ones) leave a record. Make sure you know which default privacy setting options for your social media accounts have been selected, and keep an eye on them. Sites often introduce new policies and settings that increase the visibility of your data. They may rely on you just clicking “OK” to whatever terms they are introducing without reading them.

Mobile Phones, Tablets, or Laptops.
Some websites will build a list of different devices you have used to visit those sites. While this can often be used as a way to help secure your account, it is important to understand the information being collected about your habits.
Source : and also

4. Logging off a website or deleting your account does not erase your digital footprint, and everything you post becomes a part of that footprint. It is not possible to control every aspect of our digital footprints, but in this world where college admissions personnel and possible employers check backgrounds for admissions and job offers, it is becoming increasingly important for people to control as much of their digital footprint as possible.

5. Review with students that when people search your digital footprint, they are looking to see if you:

  • Present yourself in a professional manner. This means your photos and texts use appropriate language and show you in the best light possible.
  • Are a “good fit” for the culture of the organization. This means that your posts convey a commitment to a cause or a specific topic that interests the organization and that you have a personality that fits with their mission. Do other people post things that put you in a good light?
  • Are qualified for the position or placement. Do you have the skills the job or the school requires? Do you communicate well? They want to see if your social media site shows you have skills that fit their needs.

6. Ask students what they believe they can control and what they cannot control about their digital footprints. Make a chart in a visible place and collect their answers.

7. Use the Internet to complete the following exercise:

  • Have students google their own names.
  • How many different people have your name? Do you see yourself?
  • Google your name and more information, such as first name, last name and city. Now what do you see?
  • Google another person you know. What do you see? (Search images, too.)
  • How many entries? What images are available for anyone to see?
  • What does this search tell you about the possibility of a college admissions officer or a new employer’s ability to look at your digital footprint? Is this something you want them to be able to do? Why or why not?
  • How does the information you have just found on the Internet connect to the list you created of what you can and cannot control about your digital footprint?

8. If Internet access is not available, distribute copies of the Seeing is Believing Scenarios or post where all can see clearly. Ask students to discuss whether or not each of the scenarios is fair or unfair and to explain their reasons. This can be done in small groups or as a class. Have students discuss the scenarios in light of their chart of what they can or cannot control about their digital footprints and have them consider what could have been done to clean up the person’s digital footprint in advance.


Review the themes of the lesson and close with a discussion of any/all of the following: Why should you care about managing your digital footprint? What image do you wish to portray to others? How do you accomplish this face to face? How can you accomplish this online?

As an extension, have students create an artistic version of what they would like their digital footprint to communicate. A template is provided.

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