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the real world consequences of facebook and myspace

The Real World Consequences of Facebook and MySpace

Alison Kiss

Program Director

Security On Campus, Inc,

Virginia Commonwealth University student Taylor Behl was murdered her freshman year by someone she met at

Mesloh, Dr. Charles, Campus Safety Magazine, Virtual Fun with Consequences, January 2006

history of myspace
History of MySpace
  • Social Networking website offering interactive network of photos, blogs, user profiles, groups and e-mails.
  • Founded in 2003 by Tom Anderson (alumnus UC Berkley and UCLA)
  • January 2006- reported to be the world’s 7th most popular English language*.
  • Culture: unique, alternative scene, young adults (18-30)

*Alexa Internet, Alexa Web search, January 20, 2006

elements of myspace
Elements of MySpace
  • Part diary
  • Part photo album
  • Gossip
  • Music
  • Pet peeves
___________ Details

Status: Single, etc.

Here for: Meeting people

Orientation: Straight

Hometown: Rhode Island

Body type: small frame

Ethnicity: Hispanic

Zodiac: Taurus

Children: 0

Education: none

Occupation: student

____________ Interests
  • General:
  • Music:
  • Movies:
  • Television:
  • Books:
  • Heroes:
  • Groups:
A student at the University of Kansas learned the consequences of revealing too much information on Facebook when she was stalked by a man who encountered her class schedule.

Dutton, Chelsea.Kansan Newspaper, Users abuse Facebook, February 10, 2005

history of facebook
History of Facebook
  • Formerly known as “The Facebook” is a social networking service specific to college and high school students.
  • As of December 2005-Largest number of registered users among college sites (6 million). *
  • Founded in 2004- Four former Harvard students- based on facebook distributed to incoming freshmen.
  • Culture- have to have an .edu account, personal profile, exchange public, private messages, join groups of friends.

*Wikipedia, History of Facebook, 2005

security of facebook and myspace
Security of Facebook and MySpace


  • 13 yrs. or older
  • Member conduct policy
  • Must have an .edu address to join
  • Have to “friend” someone to allow them to see profile (but not at same school)


  • Safety tips
  • Claims no liability for inaccurate material
  • Can not be under 14
dangers of on line networking
Dangers of On-line Networking
  • 1.) Student Blogs- sometimes fabricated
  • 2.) Stalking is made easy when students reveal too much information on-line
  • 3.) Identity theft
  • 4.) Posting any incriminating evidence about yourself
student blogs
Student Blogs
  • What the images and information students post about themselves may tell us.
  • Administrators access to blogs and reaction to what he/she may see (suicide threats, information about sexual assault, drugs, alcohol abuse).
  • Meeting someone through the internet posts a danger of not knowing if the information posted about him/her is true or false.
  • Giving too much information could make students vulnerable to stalking. If you post class schedules, telephone numbers, addresses.
  • On Facebook, you have the option to not ‘friend’ someone but anyone at your university could still view your complete profile.
the prevalence of stalking on campus
The Prevalence of Stalking on Campus
  • 13% of female college students have been the victims of stalking.
  • Stalking is more prevalent among younger women.
  • College campuses provide the ideal environment for stalkers.
  • College campuses are relatively closed-in communities, where daily routines and regular behaviors are easily monitored.

*Statistics taken from Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000: “Sexual Victimization of College Women”

42.5% of stalkers are boyfriends or ex-boyfriends.
  • 24.5% are classmates
  • 10.3% are acquaintances.
  • 3 in 10 women reported emotional or psychological injury.
  • In 15.3% of incidents, victims reported the stalker threatened or attempted to harm them.
  • In 10.3% of incidents, victims reported that the stalker “forced or attempted sexual contact.”

*Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000: “Sexual Victimization of College Women”


On-line sites and Stalking

  • Wealth of personal information make these sites a target for stalkers.
  • Schedules make t easiest for a stalker to identify a student’s schedule.
  • College campuses are a microcosm for stalking.
  • Stalking rates on college campuses are higher.
  • Stems from relationships and also younger people tend to be targets of crime more often.
  • Numbers are always inaccurate because only 60% of women and 30% of men who are stalked actually report (FBI Victimization Survey)
Victims will not report because they feel (98%) that officials will not believe them (National Violence Against Women Prevention Center, 2004).
  • Victims believe that they are being abused seriously enough.
  • Stalking is a “repetitive pattern of unwanted, harassing or threatening behavior committed by one person against another.” (NVAWPC, 2004)
    • Acts include telephone harassment, being followed, receiving unwanted gifts or other similar forms of intrusive behavior.

How to assist a student if he/she reports stalking

  • The most valuable tool in deterring a stalker is a journal.
  • Document every incident.
  • Photograph gifts and then send them back.
  • Have on and off campus resources available for students.
  • Be a catalyst for empowerment, not a rescuer
  • Avoid being judgmental


  • Too sympathetic- not helpful with reality of situation.
  • Too much information too fast, especially legal.
  • Expecting yourself to solve every problem.
  • Being unresponsive or cold. Calm is good but cold is not.
identity theft
Identity Theft
  • Students have their own websites connected to their profiles.
  • E-mail scams
  • Purchases using stolen credit cards on university computers.
  • Cyber-crimes are highly underreported.*

*The Greenville Daily News, 09/04/05, Associated Press “Identity Thieves Prey On College Students”

posting incriminating evidence about yourself
Posting Incriminating Evidence about Yourself
  • Students are pictured drinking beer while underage.
  • Drug use
  • Sexual activity
  • These pictures are available for future employers and school administrators.
  • Cross-referencing Facebook profiles with character-based scholarships.
  • While social networking sites offer advanced security protocols, they are rarely utilized.
raising awareness
Raising Awareness

Banning the use of these sites altogether is impossible but programming related to awareness of the dangers of these sites is imperative.

  • Primary Prevention- school-wide programs for freshman orientation, residence halls, computer safety.
  • Secondary Prevention- targeted group (students who have misused the internet)
  • Tertiary Prevention- focusing on individual students on an as-needed basis.
prevention strategies
Prevention Strategies
  • Policies encouraging safe use of websites such as Facebook and MySpace.
  • Prevention Programming specific to computer safety and stalking.
  • Resources for local area.
internet safety
Internet Safety
  • Select a gender-neutral username
  • Keep primary e-mail private
  • Do not give out information simply because it is requested.
  • Block or ignore unwanted users
  • Do not allow others to draw you into conflict.
  • Watch what you “say” on-line
  • Do not provide credit card or banking information as proof of ID.
  • Be cautious of what photos are used.
case studies
Case Studies
  • Secret Service at University of Oklahoma- Presidential threat
  • Student expelled at Fisher College for comments about a campus police officer.
  • Kansas State University- violation of school’s honor code.*
  • University of Kansas student stalked after posting her schedule on-line.*
  • Murder of a VCU student by someone who she met on MySpace.
  • University of Mississippi- three students violating judicial code by creating a group related to desire to have sex with a university professor*

*, January 2005

*Kansan Newspaper, 12/27/2005

*”When students open up too much,” Boston Globe, 9/26/2005

university 1 policy
University #1 Policy

“Since we are aware of the growing use of among HC’s students here and elsewhere, we feel it is important to share some cautions and concerns with its use.”

*Policies and Procedures Student Manual for Hastings College with permission

“First, you should be careful about how much and what kind of identifying information you post on Facebook.”

“Second, you should be aware that potential, current and future employers can often access information you place on Facebook.”

“Third, you should know that while Facebook and similar directories are hosted outside the HC server, violations of college policy on Facebook (e.g. harassing language, possible college alcohol or drug policy violations, etc.) are subject to investigations and sanction via the HC computer use policy, student code of conduct, and other relevant college policies”
university 2 policy
University #2 Policy

“Many members of our community are using thefacebook or other social sites like it are providing personal information which can the be accessed by any user of that site.”

“Facebook and other social sites are not approved or affiliated in any way with DP College, and DP College recommends that students not participate in these sites.”

*DePauw University Campus Safety website, accessed 02/03/2006 approved by Chief of Public Safety.

“Facebook also gives you a link that you can provide to anyone that links them directly to your profile. Be extremely cautious as to whom you allow access to your profile.”

“If you choose to participate, we recommend that you use your university box as your address and avoid putting your physical address on your profile.”