- Facebook and college admissions: It's a bad idea to post dicey photos or racy prose on social networking sites, no matter how private teens may think they are. According to a 2008 Kaplan study, one in 10 college admissions officers routinely check out college applicants’ Facebook and MySpace pages. And some 38% of them found posts and pictures that reflected poorly on those prospective students. It wasn’t even necessarily that they’d posted provocative or hard partying photos. In some cases, students had simply written disparagingly about the campuses they toured.
- Grad school and careers: Business and medical school admissions officers surf social networking sites in even greater numbers than their undergrad brethren. So do prospective employers, none of whom are impressed by posts that holler “Par-tay! Woo hoo!”
- Fellow students: It’s not just admissions officers doing the surfing. Some upper classmen at the University of Redlands were so incensed by partying comments made by several incoming freshmen on the Redlands Facebook group site, they showed the posts to college officials. College administrators said they called the teens’ parents a few weeks before school began to have a little talk.
- Courtroom consequences: Unfortunate Facebook postings can have serious legal repercussions too. One of the first things attorneys do with a new case is search online for information about plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses alike. In one Rhode Island case, a 20-year-old’s drunk driving accident, which severely injured another youth, could have resulted in a relatively light stint at county jail or the considerably more severe state prison. But, as the prosecutor in the case quickly discovered, two weeks after the accident, while his victim was still in the hospital, the youth posted photos on Facebook of himself at a Halloween party, prancing around in a prisoner costume. He was sentenced to two years in state prison.
- Child pornography charges: Posting or sending photos of oneself or friends in scanty clothing or sexually suggestive poses may be a popular pastime among the younger set, but if any of the people posing are under 18, the practice may result in child pornography charges. There were several such cases in 2008, including an Ohio 15-year-old who was charged with child pornography after sending nude cell phone images of herself to friends. At the time, officials in Licking County considered charging recipients of those images as well. It's one thing to be charged with sending or receiving child pornography as a minor, but those charges in adult court may carry not only prison time, but a lifetime of registering as a sex offender.
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