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Social Media 2.0: Some Safety Guidelines

Social media sites have streamlined communication, have facilitated information and photo sharing, have created endless opportunities for social and professional networking,for individual and community blogging, for tweeting and opinion sharing. As a college student,whether you are on Facebook, Friendster, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, PhotoBucket, or LinkedIn, your primary mode of communication with peers, family and friends is, no doubt, one of these or other social media sites. However appealing, inviting and amazing these sites are, their very accessibility, immediacy, and efficiency in transmitting information to countless recipients in an instant may pose some risks.

In order for you to take full advantage of social media sites, while avoiding some of the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences, we offer the following safety guidelines:

  • Avoid putting personal information on your Facebook or other social media profiles. For example, posting your residential address, cell phone number, date of birth and other personal information may open you up to the risk of identity theft and/or being cyberstalked by an ex-partner or by a potential predator.
  • In general, avoid oversharing personal details about your life in cyberspace. Remember that the information you share can easily be transmitted to any number of unintended audiences.
  • Be discreet about the photographs that you post of yourself, particularly those that show you engaging in activities that are illegal (smoking marijuana, underage drinking, vandalism, or hazing) or otherwise inappropriate. Be aware that college administrators, as well as potential employers, can access these photos, which can be detrimental to your reputation and to your future. If you are a student athlete, you can also be penalized by the NCAA if your posted material violates NCAA guidelines and standards.
  • Use caution in posting photographs of children on Facebook, Flickr, or other photo sharing sites. Be aware that you may be exposing younger siblings or other children whose photos you have posted to possible predators, who may use these photos for inappropriate or even pornographic purposes. Be aware that you can be accused of engaging in child pornography by sharing photos of underage individuals in sexually suggestive or explicit poses or situations.
  • Do not engage in "sexting," that is, sending or posting sexually explicit messages or photos of yourself.
  • Do not post threatening or inappropriate messages on other people's profiles or sites. Even if your intent is to be humorous, you can experience negative consequences for this behavior.
  • Monitor your Facebook or other social media accounts regularly. You may have been responsible by only posting appropriate information and photos of yourself, only to learn that friends or family have posted photos of you that are less than professional and appropriate. Individuals have been harmed in seeking employment and even public office as a result of photos and other materials posted by others on their social media accounts.
  • Be mindful of what you post on your own Facebook wall, profile or website. For example, if you are having a bad day, posting a message to the effect that you just can't take it anymore and you want everything to be over, can be interpreted as a suicidal message that can attract attention and intervention by college professionals and others. If you are, indeed, feeling depressed or hopeless, a better route to take is to directly access appropriate services (such as the Counseling Center or Health Services) on your campus. Similarly, do not put rants against your professors, peers or employers on your wall where they are accessible to everyone, including the subject of your rant.
  • Do not use social media to cyberbully, cyberharass, stalk, intimidate or violate the privacy of others.
  • Do not pass on private information explicitly sent to you to unintended recipients.
  • Do not spend so much time in cyberspace that you neglect your actual relationships and withdraw from other meaningful activities. In short, do not allow yourself to become "addicted" to spending all of your time on the internet. If you believe that you have become "addicted" to social media, you can access help at the Counseling Center.


Social Networking Service

10 Facebook Safety Tips - How to Protect Yourself

On-Campus Resources:

For additional information about social media safety call the Office of Information Technology: (914) 633-2691

If you believe you have been victimized in cyberspace, call the Office of Campus Safety: (914) 633-2246

If you are concerned about the amount of time you spend on the internet, call the Counseling Center: (914) 633-2038