If you take a look at headlines today, you may very well come across something like this, Student Athlete Loses Scholarship Over Social Media Posts, or They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets. Lost scholarships aren’t the only consequence of a moment of bad judgement on social media. People can lose their jobs over what they share. Posting on social media has become second nature for many students across the world, and as adolescents often engage in risky behavior, they don’t often think about how what they post can affect their future prospects.
This past Monday I attended an event called Connecting Careers and Classrooms: Focus on Public Service held by Congresswoman Susan Brooks. During this event we heard from people in the public service sector working in a variety of fields. The goal of this event was to help educators understand what skills students need in order to be successful attaining a job after high school or college. In addition to sharing specific skills needed for careers in the various professions, at least four of these public service professionals relayed that social media is hindering students’ opportunities. Many said that integrity, courage, and character are a must.
According to new data by Kaplan Test Prep, 35% of admissions officers check applicants’ social media posts. Additionally, Russell Schaffer, Kaplan Test Prep's senior communications manager, states:
Of the 35% of admissions officers who say they check social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about applicants, 47% say that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students—up from 37% last year. On the flip side, 42% say that what they found had a negative impact, up from 37% last year.
As much time as students spend engaging in digital content, it is a safe to say that every day they are contributing to their digital footprint. In fact, we all are. Our digital footprints consist of social media posts, photos, videos, comments others post about us, websites visited, search history, TV shows watched, video content we have streamed, and more. All this data is being stored. And these digital footprints don’t go away - at least not completely. Because content that is shared is now in the hands of those you shared it with and because many apps and services are storing information on servers indefinitely, our digital information may never go away. In fact, there is a trend now towards the use of the term “digital tattoo” instead of “digital footprint,” depicting the permanence of the phenomenon.
With all this in mind, schools can and should play a role in helping students understand the impact their digital footprints can have on them. Conversations can be had in the proper context. Students can be encouraged to think critically about their digital footprint and how they can improve it. Information on how to control privacy should be shared with students. Students should learn that digital footprints can be cultivated to have a positive impact on students’ future prospects, as noted in the Kaplan study, and can be used to their advantage.
As the public service professionals at the Connecting Careers and Classrooms event shared, integrity, courage, and character are key to develop in our students. But now we live in a different age. We are in a new digital era of character education, which means lessons in digital citizenship, whether through direct instruction or informal conversations, cannot go by the wayside. If we truly want to see our students succeed, schools need to infuse these lessons into all areas of the curriculum. Character education and digital citizenship are now more important than ever.
Your Digital Footprint
What is a Digital Tattoo
The Importance of Digital Citizenship in Schools
Tiffany Armstrong has worked in education technology for the last 8 years in varying capacities. After working in the Washington Township, she moved on to be the Technology Integrator for Pike Township’s 9 elementary school. Currently Tiffany is the Youth CareerConnect Technology Integrator at Pike High School.Tiffany balances her work life with being the mother of two teenagers. On the side, Tiffany is also a fitness instructor. She has taught a variety of class formats, but currently teaches Body Pump and a dance-base class called CIZE.