Five Ways for High School Seniors to Establish a Digital Footprint

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digital footprint

Over the years, I’ve listened with interest as many have spoken to the importance of helping kids establish and maintain a digital footprint that they can be proud of. I know that some college admissions officers make a study of such things. I also know it’s not enough for kids to simply avoid certain online behaviors.

When young people define their interests and share their expertise in service to others online, they begin forming a global network that enriches their learning and their lives immeasurably. This is the whole point of being connected. Senior year is the perfect time to make this a priority if kids haven’t done it already, because this is often when young people begin to recognize what their contribution to the world might be. It’s also when they begin to realize that when it comes to learning the things that truly interest them, school just hasn’t been enough.

In the end, helping kids become good digital citizens isn’t just about making sure their Twitter streams are clean. It’s about ensuring that graduates know how to use technology to achieve their dreams and be of real use to others who might learn from them. You don’t have to be the “cool teacher” in order to help kids get connected and create their digital footprint. Give these simple steps a glance and pass them on to those who might benefit from them.

Five things that high school seniors can do right now to establish a learning network and digital footprint:

1. Begin by reflecting:

  • What are their interests and passions?
  • What are they good at?
  • How could they use these passions and skills to be of service to others? Who could they inspire? What should they be advocating for? What do they know that could be of use to others?
  • What do they want to learn from others?

2. Then start connecting:

  • Invite writers to establish professional pages in networks like LinkedIn,, and Google Groups. These three networks are easy to navigate and enable rapid, targeted connection with groups and people of real value. Also: is also visually stunning and a lot of fun to mess around with.
  • Once they’re registered, encourage them to lurk around within their new networks, searching for people and conversations that interest them. They should also be seek mentors: those who are doing the work that they hope to one day. They can learn much from them.

3. Think critically about engagement in social networks: 

  • Too often, parents and teachers coach kids to avoid social networking. This is short-sighted in a thousand different ways, but it’s particularly bad advice for young people who need to establish themselves as leaders and professionals.
  • If they intend to maintain their current social networks, they need to put a critical eye on how they engage there, the content they share, and even those they are connected to. When they retweet a post by a user whose name is some adaptation of filth, it says something about them as well. Often, kids are not the most critical consumers of content, and they have much to learn about audience.
  • When they establish professional networks, young people should take care to use their real names, photos that portray their best selves, and contact information that connects readers to legitimate outlets that are checked regularly.

4. Carve out a corner of the web:

  • Help them establish a blog or a YouTube channel, and take them back to the answers they arrived at through their reflections above as they start brainstorming content.
  • Encourage them to draft a few posts or videos before inviting company.
  • Show them how to manage their time and expectations. They don’t have to post every single day or even every week. This is a great goal, but consistency over time will yield better results and help to sustain energy and enthusiasm. It makes sense for kids to commit to posting on particular days and on schedule, though. This helps audiences predict when they will hear from them.

5. Support others:

  • Once they’ve begun publishing their work online, students should share it within their professional networks. Each time they post, they should tweet about, share it on Google, and post it to their LinkedIn profile.
  • It’s important for them to support others who have the courage to share their work online as well. They should be encouraged to comment on posts that others share, retweet them, and engage them in conversation. This is how we grow the good, and that’s what this work is all about.

Over time, young people evolve into professionals who engage in different networks and leverage their online communities in different ways, for very different purposes. As they do so, their networks become more refined. They find their place. Many find a tribe.

This is a beautiful and very powerful thing.

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at

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