And we know that what goes on the internet stays on the internet in some shape or form, ready for the future employer or college to see. For example:
• Thirty-five percent of hiring managers use Google to conduct online background checks on job candidates, and 23 percent look people up on social networking sites, according to a survey from privacy think tank Ponemon Institute. About one-third of those web searches lead to rejections, according to the survey, with new college graduates—among the most active social networkers–most likely to be the target of web research.
• Sixty-six percent of Generation Y respondents, those in their late teens and 20s, were not aware that the information they put online can be factored into hiring decisions. Fifty-six percent said they think the practice is unfair, according to a study by Adecco, a work force consulting firm.
• Ten percent of admissions officers acknowledged looking at social networking sites to evaluate applicants. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed said that what they saw “negatively affected” their views of the applicant, according to a survey by test prep company Kaplan.
It would be beneficial if the debate focuses on online safety and whose must protect minors and when written rules will enforce these protection efforts. Many will argue forcefully it is a parent’s job. But how does society address that issue when, according to one UK study, one out of six parents did not even know their kids have social networking accounts?
Many parents who want to stay involved with their children’s lives do not understand the attraction of social networks–and the recent introduction of the smart phone gives parents fewer ways of stopping their child’s behavior, other than taking the phone away from them altogether.
Both parents and teachers (the next line of defense)—often lack the knowledge when it comes to complex privacy filters on Facebook. They aren’t always sure how these filters actually work and how to guide children in what is “cool” versus what is borderline risky behavior.
Our belief is that, just as with tobacco and alcohol companies that have profited from the powerful tendency of young people to want to conform to social norms that invite abuse, Facebook and other social networking companies should step up to the plate and provide for an education fund that would help teach young people how to best manage these tools.
Funds would be allocated to states based on the proportion of estimated 13 to 18 year-olds using social networking sites. The money would pay for youth training that would build a cohort of youth volunteers in every state, who would compete to participate in summer training camps testing their internet savvy on digital literacy tests. Students also could qualify as certified trainers and lead workshops for middle and high school students in their districts.
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