Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What You Post Online Can Have Consequences!

Students need to be aware of what they and their friends are putting about themselves online. As more and more teens (and tweens!) post pictures, videos and information about themselves on social networking sites, they need to understand that what they post could have serious consequences whether they like it or not. Let's take a former New England Patriots cheerleader as one example. Fox news reported last week that a New England Patriots cheerleader was dismissed from the squad because of some photographs that surfaced on various web sites, including the extremely popular social networking website, Facebook. The photos, which were of the cheerleader and an unconscious man at a party, featured some very objectionable content written on the individual she was pictured with. As a result, the Patriots let her go from the squad.

This is another example in which photos posted and shared online can have some negative consequences in your professional life. Now, there can arguments made that the Patriots overreacted, or that online pictures shouldn't be a factor of your employment, but the fact is that more and more employers and schools are taking these things into serious consideration when deciding the fate of prospective employees or students. In fact some employers and college admissions officers are searching Social Networking sites of prospective applicants to get an idea of the type of person they might be hiring or accepting into their educational institution. It is very important that students are aware of their "digital footprint". What images of themselves are they posting online? What types of photos are their friends posting? Sometimes, it is a friend or acquaintance that may post an inappropriate photograph of you online, and usually, once it is online you have no control over that image or video. Career Builder released a survey earlier this fall which states that one-in-five employers use social networking sites to do research on their job applicants. The article also adds that one-third of those hiring managers have found content that caused them to dismiss the candidates from consideration. The two top areas of concern were about job candidates who posted information about themselves drinking or using illegal drugs, and candidates who posted provocative or inappropriate photographs of themselves.

On the other hand, sometimes a good online image can be beneficial to you. In the same survey, 24% of hiring managers that did research on potential job applicants stated that they found content that help solidify their decision to hire the candidate. The top two positive factors that helped influence the hiring decision were that the candidate's background supported their qualifications for the job and that the candidate had good communication skills. So, a more professional social networking profile can actually increase your chances of getting a job.

Teenagers and adults both need to understand that what they post online can have consequences in their professional lives. Eric Esteves, from TechBoston, went out to Boston Asian Youth Essential to speak to a group of teenagers about this very topic. He didn't tell students that they shouldn't be online, or that they shouldn't have social networking pages. He encouraged them to be careful about what they are posting. He explained to them that even though they can set their own profiles to private, photographs of themselves might get posted publicly by their friends. He had a good rule of thumb, which was not to post anything that you wouldn't want your parents or grandparents to see. He wasn't there to discourage the students from using social networking, but to encourage them to use it in a positive manner.

For more information on safe social networking for teens, please check out these links:

Social Networking Safety Tips from the Federal Trade Commission

NetSmartz 411 - How to keep my child safer while using a social networking website

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