What is a Digital Footprint? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Did you know that everything you do online can be traced back to you? That's part of what's known as a digital footprint! In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at this type of footprint and what it means.

Leaving Footprints

It's a cold December day, and you've finally gotten a snow day off from school. Yeah! What's the first thing you want to do? Perhaps play in the snow or go sledding? You look outside and see a yard full of fresh snow just waiting for some fun. You throw on your snow pants, jacket, hat, and gloves and head outside. Before long, you look around and can see the evidence of your playtime: lots of footprints and tracks in the snow showing all of the places you've been! It's kind of cool to be able to trace your steps and check out all the paths you've made, isn't it?

Digital footprints are like footprints in snow, showing where you have been.
digital, footprint

Just like your footprints in snow (or sand or wet paint, yikes!), you leave footprints somewhere else, too. You've even left a footprint by visiting this website! Those computer tracks you leave behind are called digital footprints. But how can you possibly leave footprints on a computer without using your feet? Let's figure it out!

What is a Digital Footprint?

A digital footprint is a funny term used to describe the traces of yourself that you leave online. It's called a footprint because, with every website you visit, you leave a trail or footprint showing that you've been there - much like the footprints you leave while playing outside in the snow. Have you ever looked at your computer's history? In that history, you'll find a list of all the various websites you've visited. That's a simple kind of footprint you might find on a computer.

Your online footprint gets a little more complicated, though. That digital footprint is like leaving little pieces of information about yourself online for the world to find. That's kind of cool and also kind of scary, isn't it? Sometimes you share this information on purpose, like if you're registering to play an online game; but, sometimes, you're sharing this information without knowing it, like if you make an online purchase.

Where are Digital Footprints Found?

So, where can we find these digital footprints? Probably in places you never even thought of! Here are a few examples:

1. Videos: Have you ever uploaded a video to YouTube or commented on an existing video? Surprise, you've added one step to your digital footprint!

2. Emails: Sending an email to a friend or family member is another step in your digital footprint. An email can be seen and saved by another person and can remain online in your - or their - inbox for years.

3. Social media: If you want to be a part of the newest social media craze, no problem, but be prepared to add a few tracks to your digital footprint as you're signing up and sharing information.

4. Forum registrations: Do you enjoy talking to friends in online forums? Registering for these types of accounts and having conversations with friends, and even strangers, is another way you're building your digital footprint.

5. Browsing: Conducting a search for a school assignment or looking for the hottest new toy? Your search history while browsing the internet is part of your digital footprint.

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