Colleges orienting students to social networking pitfalls

As was recently reported in the Washington Times, many schools are warning students about the pitfalls of Facebook in new student orientation programs.

“The main question asked to incoming students is: Would they want their family members, potential employers, school faculty or law enforcement to see their profiles?”

Interestingly, Cornell University has posted Facebook advice for students on its IT Policy website. It’s worth a quick read, but here are some highlights:

“Think about not only your marketability today as a cool guy or girl in your college social circle, but who you might want to be in five or ten years when posting an “identity” on the Internet. Remember, just because it is a new technology does not absolve you of the responsibility to use it in legal and appropriate ways — including taking into account your obligations regarding proper conduct as a citizen of the university.”

“Think about how much you would be willing to have to go through the bureaucracies of at least three to five search engine companies to remove cached material before you post something about yourself on-line.”

“With the freedom to post what you want comes the responsibility to do so in your interests not only for today, but also for who and what you want to be tomorrow. And also think of your personal safety. Cyberspace can have the effect of creating an illusion of intimacy that could prove dangerous for you in reality. Use the manners and mores of behavior in physical space both in how you present yourself and how you interpret other people on-line as a guide.”

“Think not only about what identity you create for yourself online, but also how you represent others. At the very least, be sure that you take their feelings into account. You would not want to find yourself as a defendant in a tort case that alleged you invaded their privacy.”