Many of you know that my son Eric is in the throes of applying to college. It's likely during the next several months that I'll be writing a great deal on this topic, not only for those of you with high school seniors, but also for those with younger children too. You'd be amazed how quickly this process sneaks up on you, and it seems impossible to be "overprepared" to apply to college.
So many things have changed since I applied to college, including the many technological advances that now exist. So when I ran across this USA Today article this week entitled To friend or not to friend? College admissions in the age of Facebook, it caught my eye immediately. This article deals with the ethical issues that surround college admissions officers' use of social networking sites. Here's an amazing statistic from the article:
While 86% of college students have a Facebook account, according to a 2008 survey by Harvard University's Institute of Politics, only 13% of the 401 admissions officials surveyed this year say their schools have a policy about interacting with students on social networking sites, Olson says. "That's the picture of the changing landscape that we are in right now."
I'm certain that most of you with teens who are online are carefully supervising your kids' use of tools such as Facebook. But it's worth having a discussion today about the types of "friends" your child should be accepting online. We had a personal experience of this during the summer, when Eric received a personal letter from the Dean of Admissions at an Ivy League school. This professional shared all of the usual information about their wonderful college and then invited Eric to be his "friend" on Facebook. Thankfully, I was standing nearby when my son zealously grabbed the letter and headed to the computer. I was able to stop him and have an immediate conversation about the propriety of this use of Facebook. While I'm certain that the college official in question is likely simply using Facebook as another marketing tool, we were able to discuss the importance of Eric's personal profile - both his own postings there and what his friends write on his profile.
It seems that history is now being written about the role of Social Networking profiles in the college admissions process. We've always discussed around our home the need for Eric to have the attitude that his Facebook profile serves in a way as his "online resume". In other words, don't post (or allow the posting of) anything you wouldn't want a potential college or future employer to consider.
For those of you who use Facebook or have teens who are on any social networking site, I'm curious to hear how you handle these issues around your home. How do you regularly monitor your child's online presence? Do you feel it is ethical for colleges and universities to consider information posted online as part of the application process? Please chime in with your thoughts!