News 11 Special Report: Spying Eyes

News 11's Dan Bumpus filed this report on February 11: 

Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are thriving now more than ever, especially among the younger crowd. It might be surprising, however, to see who is trolling those sites for information.

E-mail is becoming a thing of the past for the younger generation; social networking sites are what's in now.

There's Facebook for the college age crowd and then there's MySpace for highschoolers and the younger kids. These are the new wave of communication.

These sites, however, could cause trouble if potential employers see them.

Carly Hogan, a University of Toledo junior said, "It's an easy way to keep in touch with my friends all at once... instead of sending out numerous e-mails."

Hogan has a Facebook account to stay connected with people from back home.

"I got it before I came to school, [the] summer after senior year, just to keep track with all my friends. We all went different places... just to keep in touch," she said.

The sites are basically an online glimpse into the user's life. The sites are complete with biographies and are updated with the lastest information. Friends can even write messages on a feature called the "wall."

Most popular of all is the feature that allows users to upload photos and videos.

But that's where teens and young adults are getting into trouble.

Lori Edgeworth, University of Toledo's director of student involvement, said not enough young people are paying attention to what's on their pages -- and who is looking at them.

"It's like a character analysis. Especially with employers," Edgeworth said. "It's a way for them to see a potential employee from a completely different light."

Bosses and managers are now going beyond the resumes and references and checking out Facebook and MySpace -- and it could make the difference between somene getting hired, or getting passed over.

"I have friends who hire students, and they say, 'Yeah, I was on Facebook'. [They] looked this person up," Edgeworth said. "I know of students who have said to me, 'I didn't get a job because of what I had on Facebook.'"

Most probably wouldn't want a potential boss seeing their wild side, but it's pretty easy to find.

With just a simple search, News 11 found all kinds of edgy photos of young people. Everything from sexy poses, to partying hard, and even the aftermath. It's all right out in the open. It's a glimpse of the real person, employers believe.

"They're 19, consuming alcohol, [they] put it out there on the Internet. They violate the law. Does that mean they will violate the law when they work for me?" Edgeworth said. " [They put] pictures of underage drinking, people making fun of people, [and] pictures that will hurt people's feelings. Things that employers wouldn't want to see."

Carly Hogan admits people her age aren't thinking about the consequences of their online content. She even said there's information on her page she wouldn't want a boss to see.

"Yeah, probably. Yeah... there is," she said.

The key is to remember just how public the Internet is; even with privacy settings to filter who sees your page, it's always good to assume the world is watching.

"I always tell students, 'Don't put anything on Facebook you don't want your mother to see'," Edgeworth said.

Users keeping their own content clean on these sites isn't the only thing to worry about. They need to constantly watch for any input from their friends as well.

Users should make sure to keep an eye on any messages or photos somebody else might post on their site. Racy or inappropriate additions from another person onto their pages could still give employers a bad impression.

Posted by TG