Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are just a few of the many social network websites available that people can join. Social networking websites are usually harmless and fun to use, but it is very important to understand the dangers of putting personal info about yourself on these websites. It is especially crucial for college students to understand the consequences of what they post. Things you put online can put you at risk, ruin your chance of a job, and could get blown out of context.
Most college students don’t realize how many people are actually following their actions. “A University of Oklahoma freshman’s joke in Facebook about assassinating President Bush prompted a visit from the Secret Service.”(MSNBC)
Even potential employers search these websites to find out if their applicant is the right one for them. “CareerBuilder ran a survey of hiring managers and found out that just 22% of them are checking MySpace and Facebook to see if their prospective employees are drinking too much, doing drugs, trashing former employers, or letting out trade secrets on their profiles — up from 11% two years ago.” (Silicon Alley Insider)
So what should you do? Delete your account? No, just take the right precautions when using any social network; here are some tips from The University of Texas:
- Restrict access to your profile
Some people do not consider the fact that anyone can access their account if they don’t put restrictions up. “The precautions you need to take when you are practicing online social networking are extremely crucial when dealing with strangers, or new friends. When you get a new friend request you need to be very careful. This may be an innocent person who is very honest, but it could be a predator looking to steel you identity or give your computer a virus. You should always scan these emails and any attachments they have before opening them. Always have your firewall on the highest you can to help prevent predators from getting to your information.” (Surfing the Net with Kids)
- Choose a screen name that is different from your real name
Don’t ever give out your full name, phone number, or social security number etc. “News reports of online stalkers warn there are potential personal safety issues, too. Tara Redmon, who oversees the orientation program and transition program at Western Kentucky, said one inspiration for adding the topic this year was talking to a student who had put her dorm address and room number on a posted profile, never considering the risk.” (MSNBC)
- Think twice before posting your photo
“Numerous universities like North Carolina State have been busting students for alcohol violations based on digital photographs on the Internet. At George Washington State University, campus police use Facebook to find underage drinkers.” (MSU, Mankato Reporter)
- Don’t post information that makes you vulnerable to a physical attack
“I’ll be at the Cinema at 8pm”, “Meet me in front of the steps at school at 2”… Giving away specific information about your plans makes it easy for a predator to find you.
- Use your common sense
With any situation analyze the situation and don’t become friends with complete strangers.
- Trust your instincts
If you feel like a situation is getting out of hand then report it. Most social network websites have a way to report any wrong conduct.
- Be suspicious
A lot of the information you find online will not always be true; having a computer in front of someone gives them more courage to act in ways that they normally would not act. Basically do not believe everything you read.
Do you have any stories or tips that can help our viewers? What are your thoughts on the growing trend of social-networking websites?