Teaching students the importance of a positive digital thumbprint

What goes online, stays online: Optus' Digital Thumbprint Program teaches Tamworth students to create a positive internet presence

Photo and story courtesy of The Northern Daily Leader

DIGITAL IS FOREVER: Year Nine Calrossy Anglican School students Albert Smyth and Molly Carey took part in the Optus Digital Thumbprint Program. Photo: Pete Hardin

EVERYONE has had something negative happen to them online, according to Year Nine students at Calrossy Anglican School. A cyber safety program visited Tamworth to show primary and secondary students the importance of creating a positive presence online.Optus' Digital Thumbprint Program teaches students how to access content safely, how to navigate social media correctly and what a 'digital thumbprint' is, Optus north-west NSW territory general manager Chris Simon told the Leader.

"What we mean by that, is whether people are aware that when they do access certain websites or upload certain pictures onto social media, that it's actually there for life," he said.

"We do notice that we do have pin-drop moments with the students, in particular when we talk about uploading images and how they can stick online forever, even if they do delete them locally."

Year Nine students Molly Carey and Albert Smyth said the program gave them a new perspective on being online.

"I think there's a lot of negative comments online, and the anonymity of it makes people do things that they wouldn't do if they were talking," Albert said.

The students were taught that potential employers can search them online, and googled themselves to see what pops up.

"We really need to be proper online," Albert said.

"And not do anything that could come back to bite us later."

Tamworth's digital inclusion gap is lower than the national average, according to RMIT's 2021 annual Digital Inclusion Index.

Regional areas continue to score lower than metropolitan areas, but Mr Simon said regional students aren't at a disadvantage when it comes to digital literacy and inclusion.

"Connectivity can sometimes be a little bit challenging, especially for those who do live on larger properties and within rural areas, but we are seeing that gap is shrinking as time goes on," he said.

Students need to be aware of the ups and downs of technology, said Calrossy IT director Amber Chase.

"They're online more and more, all the time," she said.

"So it's important for them to understand the repercussions of the things that they do online and to be aware of potential pitfalls."

Students Molly and Albert understand both the good and the bad of being online.

Albert's favourite website is Reddit. He likes connecting with anybody at any time all over the world, but doesn't like that companies store data. 

Molly's favourite app is Snapchat. She enjoys that others get a perspective of her life from shot to shot, but she isn't a fan of how 'fake' the online world can be.