"I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record"
"Kiss Off" by the Violent Femmes
A friend of my daughter's mentioned over lunch today that her mom thinks there will come a day when no one will be able to get into college because of the stuff they've posted on Facebook. This girl, as well as my daughter, aren't allowed to have Facebook accounts as they're under the age of 13. Most of their friends (still under the age of 13) already have FB accounts.
The other morning, my friend Alice Barr pointed me to an interesting article (via Facebook, btw) called,"5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years" by Dan Schawbel, that's certainly worth a read and which compliments the argument that this mother point makes: we will be judged by our digital footprint.
I am a firm believer of this. In fact, if you Google my name, you'll see a huge roll-out of my digital footprint, one that I am quite proud of, and in fact suggest people call up if they want to know "all about me." I also continue a very transparent collection of the work that I do, my thoughts about education, interviews I've done, my publications, etc., all found neatly ordered at www.bobsprankle.com. Again, I want people to be able to get a clear snapshot of me and continue to contribute to the ease of hunting that information down. I've long advocated that teachers should pursue a similar practice, that investing in one's own domain name should be seen as essential as having a business card or resume, handed out by way of introduction to students, other teachers, and members of the global community.
However: this digital footprint of mine ---that I'm rather proud of--- was created entirely as an adult. What would it look like if I had started its compilation as a teenager, as most teenagers are doing now?
Look, I can't even remember most of the mistakes I made as a teen (and I wouldn't list them here even if I could), but I'm sure I resembled most adolescents and was not perfect. I learned from those errors of my youth and hopefully those experiences have made me a better person: the person I feel good about when I look in the mirror.
Infractions from me and my peers were usually handled privately (i.e., parents), and unless someone messed up big time and it happened to make the newspapers, all records of those infractions are now just fizzling out in aging memories, pulled forth only at times to help us be better parents and make sure our kids don't do the same stupid things we did.
Let's face it: teens today are not afforded the same privilege of "erasure" that we had at their age. I know what most responses will be: "Yes, but they're the ones posting their "mess-ups" on Facebook!" (And post it they do; I remember my brother who is a police officer telling me how much they loved MySpace and Facebook... that all they needed to do was read certain profiles, and confessions were already captured in print).
Studies show us that prefrontal cortex, aka, the "executive functioning" part of our brain ---you know, the part of the brain that steps in before we do something stupid like post a picture of doing a "keg stand" on Facebook---doesn't reach maturity until around the age of 25.
Dude, that's a long time with plenty of Facebook posts and Twitters and YouTube Videos and Flickr Pics before ones brain is finally able to say "hmmm... maybe it isn't a great idea to push SHARE."
Personally, I will continue to beat the drum to my daughter, her friends, and my students that what they post on the Internet can become a mark on their "permanent record." The decisions they make today on the Internet could surely influence their college admissions and job opportunities.
However... I'm curious (and psst! we can even keep this question on the "low" and not share it with our kids so they don't get the idea that "anything goes"). Will there come a time with employers and colleges and loan officers and future in-laws and committees vetting candidates for political office, etc., where there will be an understanding that some of that old "digital footprint" created prior to "executive functioning maturation" can/will/should be overlooked?
Let me ask it this way: How would you have fared if your teenage years were preserved in bits and bytes the way our students' are today?