It is no secret that teenagers have come to rely on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to document every aspect of their lives. It is easy to get lost in the online world of social media and think that because you’ve set your profile to “private”, what you post online will have no repercussions. This blog post will outline some of the possible consequences of documenting too much of your information through social media.
It has become increasingly known that many employers do a Facebook search of their potential employees before they even have a chance to introduce themselves. In most cases, these searches will turn employers away from the candidate before even interviewing them. However, what is not as well known is the fact that universities do the same. According to a Kaplan Test Prep survey from 2011, 24% of college admission officers in the United States admitted to using social networks such as Facebook to learn more about their candidates (Schaffer and Wong).
Another, more surprising example of Facebook information use by the government is the story of Paula Asher. Paula is an 18-year-old girl who landed in jail for refusing to take down her Facebook page after she posted prior to her court date: “My dumbass got a DUI and hit a car LOL” (qtd. in Ashe), which the judge was not very pleased with.
Facebook information is also often used local high schools when problems in a school arise. Students in Ontario who use Facebook as a means to bully students in their schools can be suspended or in some cases expelled. The Education Act states in s. 306 (1)(6) that a principal must consider suspending you if you bully someone. S. 310(1)(6) of the Education Act goes on to state that a principal must consider expelling you:
a) if your bullying is motivated by bias (i.e. race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, disability or more) OR
b) previously have been suspended for bullying and create an unsafe risk to the safety of another student.
Posting hurtful comments on Facebook about other students at your school qualifies as an act that will impact the school climate regardless of whether you posted these comments off school property or out of school hours. It is easy for this information to come to the attention of the school administration; your posts can be printed by any of your friends or by the person who your comments may be directed too. Any posts on Facebook that are threatening or point to a pattern of harassment or other criminal activity can be used as evidence in court for criminal charges or civil law suits.
As these and many other stories show, it is important to know where your information is stored, for how long, and most importantly, who can access it. As a press release from Astoria police read, “When you post […] on Facebook, you have to figure that it is not going to stay private long” (qtd. in Gorrow).
This scenario was written by Naiara Toker, a volunteer on JFCY’s PLE team. All legal content was reviewed by a JFCY lawyer.