'Leave no trace' takes on a new meaning

Look around you. We are all – teens, adults, and children – online, all-the-time. And most of us are using multiple devices to access our favorite social and communication sites on the web. In a mere generation, our society has added new tools and social norms to it’s vocabulary. Most are wonderful, but this week we saw the ugly side of these conveniences affect a life.

Phoebe Prince from South Hadley High School was bullied relentlessly by a select number of her peers. And this bullying did not end in the schoolyard. It took on an online life of its own and followed Phoebe on her facebook profile, cell phone texting service, and beyond. The negativity never ended for her. Eventually she felt so overwhelmed that she took her own life.

I think it is time more of us are aware of the impression we are leaving on the internet and beyond. And we should be educating our children about this responsibility from the moment they begin to log in to PBSkids with us by their side. Parenting does not end once a child goes online…that is only a continuation of who they are in this world. It is our job as parents to both lead and guide this process.

While at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I attended multiple discussions and forums concerning our “digital footprints”. It is quite clear that many of us think of our online life – and the data it creates – as something temporary. And before we start pointing fingers at the teenagers engrossed in their texting conversations, I think we first have to admit that we adults have not even begun to educate ourselves appropriately concerning our digital citizenship.

Start with this information and we’ll talk:

  • NetLingo’s site is overflowing with information. Start with this article onDigital Footprints and visit their Top 50 lists.
  • McGruff enters the cybersafety world with a set of guidelines appropriate for most households with younger children.
  • Spectorsoft, maker of monitoring software, offers a guide to texting and shorthand lingo. There is also a downloadable guide and other tools available in the links here.
  • A classroom curriculum which discusses the use of intellectual property and creative rights misuse can be found through the DigitalCitizenshipedwebsite. There is an excellent student site.