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Dangers and Guidelines for Social Networking in College

written by: Erik Hinrichsen•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 9/14/2010

This article presents some of the dangers of social networking for college students. Students can learn how to safely use social networking sites like Facebook by reading this guide.

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    Over the last few years, social networking sites have exploded in popularity. These sites, the most popular of which is Facebook, offer students and others the opportunity to share news and otherwise communicate with friends and family. What many students aren't aware of is that they're also communicating with future employers, school administrators, and the police. Students' uses of social networking sites may seem innocuous enough, but they should be aware of some of the potential consequences of misusing these sites. The dangers of social networking for college students are easy enough to avoid, provided one follows some simple social networking college guidelines.

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    Dangers of Social Networking

    The biggest dangers of social networking for college students is the habit of posting incriminating photos online. Since many sites do not have very stringent privacy policies, a user's photos may be accessible to outside users. That means that pictures showing underage students drinking and being destructive may be visible to police and school administrators. In some cases, authorities have chosen to act on these pictures.

    In addition to dangers in the present, incriminating photos also pose future hazards. Employers today commonly conduct Internet searches on prospective hires, and they do not look kindly on photos of misbehavior. Remember that pictures on the Internet can hang around for years, even after they've been deleted. This means that you can't just delete all the photos of yourself drinking and behaving irresponsibly after you graduate, because employers may still be able to find them.

    Incriminating photos aren't the only potential problems with social networking, though. Posts on friends' walls, or even a simple status update, can look bad. Even worse is making comments about employers on your social networking page. Many individuals have been fired after making offhand complaints about their bosses, forgetting that everything was publicly available. It is best to treat posts on social networking sites as public information. Anything you wouldn't want someone else to read should never be written down in a public format like Facebook; save gossip and complaining for real life conversations.

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    Social Networking in College: Guidelines

    These dangers may make social networking sites seem like frightening places. Not so; they are perfectly safe, so long as one follows some simple rules. These guidelines for using social networking sites in college are very much common sense rules.

    First, never post publicly post an incriminating photo. This is particularly true for pictures showing illegal activities like underage drinking or property destruction. Though you may want to show off all the fun you had last weekend, in the end it isn't worth the possibility of being kicked out of school or receiving a summons from the police.

    Use the same degree of caution for written posts. If you assume that any post you write will be read by whoever you wouldn't want to read it, you won't go wrong. Just remember that Facebook and MySpace are public websites, visible to all your friends, enemies, and future employers. One popular guideline has always been that students shouldn't post anything thing they wouldn't want their parents to read; now that many adults are using Facebook, your parents might literally be reading every status update.

    Many of the hazards of social networking sites can be avoided by correctly using privacy settings. Most social networking sties allow users to set their own privacy settings, like who can see a profile and how much they can see. Students should only allow their friends to view their profiles; this should prevent many of the aforementioned problems.

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    Social networking in college is exciting and fun. Now that so much of it is occurring on social networking websites, students need to exercise caution even when interacting with friends. Students can safely use social networking sites provided they use common sense, avoid posting questionable content online and remember the social networking college guidelines.

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