University is educating students on the perils, pitfalls on online profiles
TOWSON, Md. (August 29, 2006)—He’s every parent’s and university administrator’s worst nightmare: “John Doe,” a self-proclaimed student anarchist, underage drunk and peddler of fake IDs and term papers who enjoys hurting people’s feelings.
Doe’s online profile—as reproduced in TU’s new Got Secrets? Think Again brochure—isn’t real. But those who keep tabs on popular social networking sites such as MySpace.com and Facebook.com say it’s not that far off the mark.
“Students think their online profiles are private forums,” says Pat Frawley, TU director of Judicial Affairs. “But that’s not necessarily the case. What students post today can come back to haunt them tomorrow or even years from now.”
Last spring Frawley approached Deb Moriarty, vice president for student affairs, about launching a campaign to educate TU students about the risks of online profiles. “We needed to alert them to possible consequences—like losing a job, being arrested or being stalked or harassed,” she says.
Student Affairs’ new brochure, now being distributed to returning students, explains the darker side of online profiles. “Prospective employers may check them,” says Frawley. “Police use them to identify potential suspects in crimes and Code of Conduct violations. Predators use them to get posters’ dates of birth, addresses, class schedules and phone numbers.”
Margie Tversky, associate director of athletics for compliance and student services, says she’s been aware of the social networking sites issue since last fall. “Athletics is addressing it in a number of venues,” she adds, “including in an open forum for first-year athletes’ parents, in First Year Experience sections and in sport supervisor meetings.
“We’re not saying ‘don’t post,’” she explains, “but we do remind them that as student-athletes, they’re held to a higher standard. They represent Tiger athletics and the university in addition to themselves, so it’s important that they bear that in mind and act responsibly.”
So is the fledgling campaign having an effect? “I hope so,” says Judicial Affairs’ Frawley. “We’re doing our best to educate students and parents. If students are going to use these sites, we want them to use them in a safe and effective way.
“We tell them, ‘If you wouldn’t post it on your front door, don’t post it online.’”