Facebook.com - Innocent Fun or Dangerous Surfing?

Facebook.com - Innocent Fun or Dangerous Surfing?
By: Wes Wallace

What do you get when you cross a yearbook, a web site, and tens of thousands of college students?

The answer, mostly likely found on a university campus near you, called the facebook dot com.

It's a pretty valuable resource for Southeast Missouri State University Senior Jason Kopf.

He says, "People can network and you can find your old high school friends."

Kopf is active in student government, and says Facebook helps others like him stay in touch, announce meetings, and get out a lot of information quickly.

Sometimes too quickly.

Students, or anyone with a .edu e-mail address can post pictures and personal information.

Sometimes too personal.

"We always caution students to think about how they do things to keep themselves safe, what are the ramifications, because it's truly a public domain," explains Dr. Kelly Wesner, SEMO's Director of Residence Life.

It's a big concern for administrators at schools like SEMO and Southern Illinois University.

Students posting pictures of themselves partying, drinking, or doing things that may not be considered appropriate behavior by others.

While some of the content may be perfectly legal, Dr. Wesener tells Heartland News about a warning students need to remember.

"Employers have access too, other people have access too, and that's one of the downsides of facebook."

Despite all this, some students say facebook is meant to be fun, not feared.

"It's a web site for kids, to put pictures up, it's online, it's just for fun and they're kind of ruining it," says SEMO Sophomore Chris Cullman.

SEMO Senior Patricia Lasher puts it another way, "If you're dumb enough to break the rules, brag about it, and then post pictures on the Internet, then you deserve to get caught."

Beth Scally is the associate director of University Housing at SIU, and says besides photos, students sometimes also include personal information like cell phone numbers and addresses, which could make them targets for stalkers.