What does “digital footprint” refer to? Anytime we access the Internet—whether searching websites, sending emails, or checking Facebook—we leave a permanent trail or a set of “tracks.” Yes, we can delete; but the footprint remains and is accessible to those with certain IT skills. Everywhere we go on the Internet, we leave a footprint; and that footprint can have a significant positive or negative impact on our reputation and on the reputation of others.
What does Scripture say about this? Online educational materials discussing digital footprint often refer to the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12) and instruct students that before posting pictures or comments, they need to consider how others might feel about their posts and if the student would like that to be said about himself/herself. Students need to understand the need to stop and think before posting—since once a picture or comment has been posted, it cannot be completely erased. Of course, respect for others is important as well. Sadly, even friends may suffer from unintended but nonetheless damaging consequences of pictures or words that were not “Golden Rule-filtered” before being posted.
Another scriptural principle that applies is “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Prov. 20:11). The digital footprint that a person leaves reveals something about that person. They may yet be children, but they are known by their Internet doings—whether their choices are pure or somewhat “sketchy.”
Finally, our young people need to remember that though they may feel like they are alone when online, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). Men may be able to expose what was intended to be private online, but God sees all—including that digital footprint.