Can a “Digital Leopard” Change its Spots?

With modern day advances in technology, science and religion, leopards really can change their spots. For example:

Leopard:                                                                          Leopard with new spots:

18356084419_240cbbbf4a_m   arrow-988169_640 19709025586_a5e6fb1885_m

Photo Credit: alfrank1986 via Compfight cc                            Photo Credit: Disney | ABC                                                                                              Television Group via Compfight cc

But can a “digital leopard” change its spots? Alec and I were discussing this during the chat feature of our Digital Identity class tonight. While growing up, children are introduced to their parents culture. They learn about their values and beliefs and tend to adopt them as their own until they become more critical thinkers and begin to question what they have learned. And once they feel comfortable and confident enough to make a choice about those beliefs, they can choose to continue to accept them or refute them. These such choices are often done “privately public”. Meaning – our public audience is only those closest to us.

But a “digital leopard”, in my opinion, isn’t so lucky. A digital leopard posts publicly for all the world to see. For example:

Justine's tweet, pictured here, enraged thousands of people who said she was racist and ignorant (This tweet was sent December 20th, 2013)


 Justine Sacco

(Over 2 years later… still not forgotten)

Or, even closer to home, Ala Buzreba who ran as a Libreal Candidate in this past federal election only having to step down after a tweet surfaced that she made over 4 years ago. At the time of that Tweet, Buzreba was 17 years old.

Ala Lib candidate

These types of digital leopards will never be able to change their spots because an enormous elephant stands in their way.

I personally view the Internet as the proverbial elephant – it will forgive over time, but it can never forget. In our discussions about digital identity, we touched again on the issues surrounding social shaming and the importance of digital citizenship. In her blog post, Jeannine Whitehouse discussed the sort of digital footprint you want to leave behind. She discusses that her role as an educator influences her posts on Facebook because “Social Media keeps a record of everything”. I argued in a recent blog post, Digital Kids: Now and in the Future, that children of viraled videos created by their parents never had a choice about the beginnings of their digital identity. Their legacy began before they were even old enough to legally accept the terms of agreement!

The article, Digital Birth: Welcome to the Online World, reinforces my thoughts. With 84% of parents in Canada having placed photos and updates of their children (under the age of 2) on the internet proves that a child’s digital identity begins with their parents. And with what consequences in the future? Remember that embarrassing photo of you as a toddler in the bathtub? You know, the one your mom threatens to show at your wedding? Well now, those photos are a Google Image search away, no longer tucked away in a photo album and for all the world to see.  rubber-duckies-14614_640

Dayna Braunstein wrote an article about how, in general, people follow the rule of not talking or tagging people online without their consent. However, this rule is easily forgotten when parents begin to post photos and images of their children online. She brings up the great point that “Aside from the privacy issues, this type of behavior reveals an identity issue and loss of boundaries between parent and child”. In the past, parents would read their child’s diary to see what they are up to, but now, parents can start that diary for their children.

I like this clip about Online Identity Guide for Kids by Common Sense Media. However, as much as it is a guide for parents to help their child develop a positive online identity, I think parents themselves need to critically view how they are contributing to their child’s online identity.


One thought on “Can a “Digital Leopard” Change its Spots?

  1. I found the Digital Birth: Welcome to the Online World article very interesting. I have many friends who have young children and lots of friends who are currently pregnant with their first child. Just the other day at a wedding we were talking about people posting pictures of their child online. During our conversation one of my friends mentioned that she knew someone from their hometown who posts a picture almost each and everyday of her child. That had me thinking-if that parent continues to post a picture a day then her child will approximately would have 1825 pictures posted online by the time he or she is just five years old. This article gave me lots to think about digital identity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rochelle! I enjoyed reading your post!

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