Online All The Time? How Children Understand Their Digital Footprints

Year: 2015

Author: Buchanan, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australian children are among the youngest and most prolific users of the internet in the world; they are, on average, a little under eight years old when they begin using the internet; and most Australian children and teenagers go online daily. Understanding children’s digital knowledge and online behaviour is important as children’s internet and social media usage generates digital footprints. Their management is a 21st century life skill; lack of which can have serious future social and professional consequences. Some parents/carers educate their children on safe internet participation. But many other children face potential disadvantage as digital footprints are increasingly used to vet applicants for jobs and other life opportunities. The concept of digital footprints is understood negatively and children are encouraged to minimise theirs. Yet, the lack of a digital footprint can be as disadvantageous as a badly managed one.
This paper reports on the findings of the Best Footprint Forward project’s investigation of primary school children’s understanding of the internet, and these children’s, their parents’/carers’ and teachers awareness and attitudes towards digital footprints and the strategies used to manage these. This paper presents the results of focus group research conducted with 100 primary school students, their parents and teachers, drawn from socially diverse schools across NSW. Taking Boyd’s theorising regarding young people viewing online participation as participation in a new form of public space, the ‘networked public’ as a starting point, this paper describes the children’s online participation and their understanding of this participation and how their teachers deal with this issue with their students. The implications for resource and curriculum development for positive footprint awareness are discussed.