Managing Your Digital Footprint

digital footprint, cyber bullying, internet safety, technologyThis guest post is by Alison Trachtman Hill who is the Founder and Managing Partner of Critical Issues for Girls (CI4G). Check out Alison’s expert ideas and advice in a new book about bullying, cyberbullying and peer abuse written and illustrated by youth called Face 2 Face (purchase code: CI4G).

Cyber-bullying is peer abuse perpetrated through digital media.  This cruelty delivered via signals, routers and machines is not caused by the technology, however, but is the result of our behavior and actions.  We are all responsible for carefully and thoughtfully navigating the social and interpersonal aspects of our online interactions, and helping educate our friends and family to do the same.

 

Have you ever heard of The Butterfly Effect?  The Butterfly Effect teaches us that the world we live in is so interdependent, even the tiny change in atmosphere generated by the flap of a butterfly’s wings has the capacity to impact entire weather systems across the planet.  As inhabitants of this planet, all of our individual, local actions can have collective, global impact – for better or worse.

 

This concept is of the utmost importance when we think about the kinds of things we post and share online.  Every time you write, post, or send anything digitally, it impacts people’s impression of you, which then affects your group of friends, your school, and the larger digital communities of which you are a part.  This “digital footprint” can help or hurt your reputation, friendships, and opportunities.  It can also enable authorities to discover where every piece of information on the Internet came from and who wrote/posted it. Once you hit “send,” those messages, thoughts and feelings are out there forever, for everyone to see.

 

While there are many factors that influence a person’s involvement in online abuse, two of the underlying issues are lack of respect and a propensity for technology-users to forget that there is a person on the other side of the screen. When you can’t see that person, it is that much easier to be thoughtless, mean-spirited or disrespectful.   There is a concept called “Disinhibition,” which is the propensity for people to say and do things online that they would not do or say offline.   Digital interaction – which often removes body language, voice tone and facial expression from the communication equation – all play a huge role in how people get themselves into abusive situations when using technology.

 

We all sometimes forget that there are people on the other side of our screens, and that the things we communicate can and do hurt them, even if we can’t see the hurt.  When it comes to aggressive or abusive behavior, there is a tendency to completely discount the other person.  We get so wrapped up in our feelings and emotions that we don’t necessarily consider those of the person on the other end.  It is really important that you STOP and think before you post or text or IM.  You are a powerful person who has the ability to end the hate and abuse that destroy our communities from the inside out.  Remind yourself that there are people on the other side of your communication, and if you wouldn’t say to their face the words you are sending through the web, don’t type them either.

In the end, we get the behavior we expect.  When we talk about respect, responsibility and kindness with our friends and family in our homes, and design lessons about these topics for our school curriculum, our culture will change.  It will take all of us working together to create inclusive, tolerant and safe communities – online and off.

This guest post is by Alison Trachtman Hill who is the Founder and Managing Partner of Critical Issues for Girls (CI4G). Check out Alison’s expert ideas and advice in a new book about bullying, cyberbullying and peer abuse written and illustrated by youth called Face 2 Face (purchase code: CI4G).

 

 

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