We spend a lot of time talking about how to teach kids to be good digital citizens and to be mindful of their digital tattoos. But we don’t spend much time discussing how early that tattoo can be imprinted and how much of that imprint is started before they have any say in the matter.
My mom had a photo collage hanging in our living room for years. One of the pictures in that collage was of my little brother dancing around naked after a bath. Of course, he reached a point in his life where he didn’t enjoy having it on the wall and asked my mother to take it down. She did, none of his friends ever saw it and that was the end of it. But, what if she had put that “cute” picture on Facebook or in her Flickr album? That picture would forever be a part of his digital tattoo. A picture he found embarrassing, a picture he didn’t want other people to see, a picture he didn’t ever give permission to have posted, would forever be attached to his name and part of his digital history.
Think about how many pictures of kids show up in your Facebook feed every day. None of those kids know their parents put their pictures on the internet, none of them had a chance to give their consent. While most of those pictures aren’t going to keep these kids from getting into the college of their choice or a job, they are still beyond their control. Their digital lives are starting without them knowing, without them getting to be a part of that decision.
If we’re going to help students make the most of their digital lives, we need to do more to educate their parents about the digital tattoos they’re creating for their children.