Sunday, February 19, 2006

Experts to students: Watch what you post

I recently read an interesting article in eSchool News online that gives advice to students about their online behavior. I would like to include some excerpts here.
With the rise in social networking sites such as MySpace.com, experts are warning that students need to exercise more discretion in what they post about themselves online. Besides the obvious danger of posting personally identifying information, they say, the potential exists for embarrassing information to come back to bite students later in life when they apply for college or a job.

We talked about this in some classes Friday, but I wanted to share the source to prove to the students I wasn't just making this up!
Seven Lincoln, Neb., high school students were suspended for two weeks when a school staff member found a MySpace.com posting that mentioned the students drinking alcohol.

"This is a new arena for us," said Wendy Henrichs, athletic director for Lincoln East High School, where the seven suspended students were all varsity and junior varsity basketball players. "In the '70s or '80s ... people would say those things. Today, they write them."

She added, "The difference is putting it in print, basically documented proof of what's been said. I don't know if kids understand that."

Even if you delete your page, someone else may have the page (or portions of it) saved on their site. There is a service called Furl that will do this. It is great for research, but it can hurt you if you post something in a moment of carelessness that you later decide to delete.

A recent Harris Interactive poll showed that 23 percent of people search the names of business associates or colleagues on the internet before meeting them--which probably means many employers are doing the same with job applicants, said Andrea Kay, a career consultant and author of "Interview Strategies That Will Get You the Job You Want."

"It's a wake--up call: You better be careful what you say and do, because it is your reputation. You're developing it early on," Kay said. ...

Given the relative ease of investigating someone online and the rate of technology's penetration into the college admissions process, it's conceivable that college admissions officers, too, could soon be Googling prospective students.

College admissions officers who spoke with eSchool News said it wasn't part of their typical practice yet--but if the trend of employers Googling applicants spreads to education, that could change.

I have read recently that Googling your name is the latest trend in self-absorption. However, I think it is wise for us to check from time to time to see what is out there about us (a little like checking your credit rating!).

I spent a little time on MySpace this week, and I was really surprised at some of the things I saw. Anybody can look at this. Students remember when you are posting and commenting that anyone can read it. Think ahead five years. Would you want a college scholarship committee, a prospective employer, or the "love of your life's" parents to see what you have written today?

Some may say that the dangers of blogging are reason enough to keep it out of schools. I disagree. I think that schools can be the place where students can learn to blog responsibly. I heard someone compare this to driving. Just because driving can be a dangerous activity that some students will abuse, schools offer driver education in order to teach them to drive responsibly. Teenagers are going to use the internet whether we encourage the practice in schools or not. We have the opportuntiy to guide them into safe arenas for internet use. I truly believe that a large amount of dangerous behavior on the part of teenagers is a reaction to boredom. Maybe if we offer alternatives to unsafe behavior early enough, they will choose the safe path because it is even more fulfilling than the unsafe path!

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