Thinking About Inking the Digital Tattoo?

“In the future, your digital footprint will carry far more weight than anything you might include on your resume.” – Chris Betcher

While you’ve probably come across the term ‘digital footprint’ before, this phrase is losing popularity after a recent shift in the way that researchers, educators, and policy-makers view online privacy and data collection. Many experts are encouraging people to instead adopt the phrase ‘digital tattoo’ which more accurately reflects the permanence of people’s online decisions and actions. 

According to the UK Safer Internet Centre, “your digital footprint is the mark that you leave behind when using the Internet and can shape your online reputation. Your digital footprints are made up of the content you create, post and share; as well as the content that others post, and share, with you and about you”.

A digital tattoo more or less shares the definition of a digital footprint. However, while it’s fair to say that any time that we go online we are leaving a mark, data trail, or digital footprint behind us,  using the word ‘footprint’ subtly implies that this mark fades with time, which is not the case. 

Rob McTaggart believes that “Footprints can be washed away in the next high tide. Online, this is not the case. What you do, good or bad, will define your online profile for a very long time, perhaps indefinitely.” This is because it’s impossible to ever truly erase something from the Internet. The word ‘tattoo’ is, therefore, a more accurate representation of the impressions that we leave when we use the Internet because it is permanent. 

Childnet has developed an Online Reputation Checklist to help young people manage and maintain their online reputation on the basis that , “Your digital footprints can be positive or negative and shape how people see you now or in the future.”

The checklist includes these actions:

  • Search Yourself Online. Do a simple Google search of your name and see what’s out there. If there’s something you don’t want online take the necessary steps to have that content removed. 
  • Check Privacy Settings. Most social media sites have privacy settings to help you manage the content you share and who you share it with. Keep in mind that your friend’s content and their settings can also affect your digital tattoo.
  • Think Before You Post. Before you post consider who may see it and would you be OK for friends, family, grandparents, teachers and future employers having access to it?
  • Deactivate & Delete. When you stop using a social networking profile or website, it’s a good idea to deactivate or delete your account. This will mean the content is no longer live and should not be searchable online.
  • Create a Positive Digital Tattoo. Is your digital identity a true reflection of you & how you’d like others to see you? Think about the ways you can be creative in how you ‘ink’ your digital tattoo which you can be proud of.

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