Your digital footprint. Or is it yours?

This is a guest post by the @digitalsisters who are Emma and Charlotte Robertson, founders of Digital Awareness UK. I first met Emma and Charlotte at BETT 2015 and I was really impressed with their approach to e-safety. I asked them to contribute to my blog and they kindly agreed.

When we deliver our Employable Digital Footprint Programme in schools, we challenge students to think about what they would like people to find when they “Google” them. And not just any people – potential employers, teachers or Universities they might want to apply to attend.

One of our favorite classroom debates questions “should you be judged by a future potential employer based on something silly you posted 10 years ago?”

We like it because usually the ‘no’ argument leans towards people believing in freedom of expression – whether that’s in relation to politics, religion, your music taste or even your ex-girlfriend! The very purpose of social media, especially for young people, is that it’s a platform for them to reveal their identity and voice their opinion. If political correctness and clean imagery were a key requirement for social networking it probably wouldn’t last long!

The ‘yes’ argument usually leans towards the opinion that if you choose to post a silly picture of yourself or even a racist comment, which could offend people, you have to expect that people will judge you for it moving forwards.

Your digital footprint is the trail of information you leave behind you when you do anything online – the things you buy, the keywords you search for, the comments you make on Facebook or your profile picture on Twitter. Michelle Clark has done a fantastic TED Talk on digital footprints and the impact they have on young people today:

As time passes, we’re slowly starting to discover that not only do these behavours get sold onto third party marketing companies; they can also be used as a character reference.

Research by ExecuNet showed that 77% of recruiters said they used search engines to find background data on candidates and 33% admitted they eliminated a candidate because of what they found online. This is where things get interesting. If you “Googled” a candidate and found this picture, would you consider hiring them?

Sellotape Selfie

So whether students like it or not, when it comes to the crunch they may get judged based on something they’ve done 10 years ago.

However, there are also many plus sides to having a digital footprint. You can purposefully create things online to ensure that when employers or Universities do Google you, they find something that showcases you in a more positive light. This could be a careers blog, an infographic CV or well-populated LinkedIn profile.

Once students have done a clean up of their digital footprint (if that’s what they wish to do)! We focus on the positive side, and brainstorm creative ways to get yourself noticed online.

There are five simple steps you can take to helping to protect your digital footprint and this is something we hammer home to our students:

1. Check the security settings on all your social network profiles to ensure the content you’re posting is as secure as you want it to be
2. Use nick names if you don’t want to use your real identity
3. Delete old, disused social profiles such as Bebo, which may contain content that doesn’t reflect you in a positive light
4. ‘Report’ any content of you that you wish to be deleted to social networks. Or work with Google/the webmaster of any website you feature in to get it deleted. Click here [hyperlink: to find out how
5. Moving forward, think before you post!

Digital Awareness UK use leading YouTube stars, hackers and social media specialists to inspire students to enjoy using social media safely. If you’d like to work with them to help bolster your e-safety efforts, get in touch with Emma and Charlotte at or tweet @DigitalSisters


Cyber Safety: Social Media, Cyberbullying and Sexting (Year 10 Presentation)

This is a copy of a presentation I gave to Year 10 students on Cyber Safety. It covers social media, cyberbullying and sexting. Although this is heavy going I think it is still important when talking about this subject matter that you also talk about how positive social media can be, when used appropriately.