A couple weeks ago we attended a parents evening on Facebook. I am not a big Facebook user. I have it turned on, I have pictures posted for friends and have connections to a host of old and current friends. It is a convenient way to stay in touch. But I don’t post … because I blog.

The evening event was hosted by Chris Vollum of Social Media Trust and was titled Facebook 101 for Parents. During the day he had held 3 sessions for the lower, middle and upper schools. I consider myself pretty technical, but I was a bit naive on Facebook as I have not invested the right amount of time into understanding it (our boys are just now showing interest). The biggest eye openers for me were the long term impact that Facebook activity can have on children. I am very personally aware of what I write on this blog, but do children of 14 or 15 think before they do something off the cuff?

The photograph of his slide is chilling .. sent to a student who was enrolling in the University of Connecticut:


Consider these statistics from a University of Massachusetts study that polled 453 college admission departments:

  • 26% are actively researching students through search engines
  • 21% are checking out social networking profiles like MySpace and Facebook

More concerning is just how open most people are on a few fronts:

  • Too many people do not understand the privacy settings. They may think that they are just with their friends, when in fact, they are wide open. The speaker showed a random woman in Florida who had her university info, birth date, and a host of other private pieces of information up for everyone to see. A identity theft just waiting to happen. Sophos has a good guide on how to lock down here.
  • People post too much. As per the last part, they are wide open and then they post everything. He typed in ‘Friday vacation’ and up came hundreds of posts from people talking about how they were going on holiday on the weekend. He told the story of a friend who posted ‘leaving today, coming back late next Sunday night’. The only thing missing was which mat the spare key is hidden under.
  • Facebook policies are changing and people don’t understand it. Last fall Facebook reset everyone’s privacy settings and if you had a fully locked down profile, you had to go back in and set it back to ‘locked up’. And they will do it again.

A very eye opening and cautionary evening.

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