Tech Savvy Parents Do Their Homework
By: Holly Brantley
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - On move-in day, life changes for thousands of Heartland college students. Everything's new, including living quarters and a new roommate.
"You live with them, it's a whole new world," said Amber Walker, a college Junior.
When it comes to scoping out your new roommate, much has changed. Many students log on to Facebook or MySpace. These pages can include a lot of personal information.
"Using social network sites to learn what you would've gotten from an email before is very popular," said Kendra Whitcher-Skinner of Residential Life at Southeast Missouri State University. "Now students want to see pictures, they want to know what their roommate is really into."
It's a trend catching on with parents too.
"The last two years, we've gotten more and more calls from parents and students who have called and said they saw stuff on a profile and had concerns about a roommate or even someone else who lives on the floor," said Whitcher-Skinner.
Beth Borton's son attends a college in Missouri just outside the Heartland. She learned how important it is to know more than just the name of the person he's living with.
"My son had been in school for a week. He had no contact with his roommate before they actually met. He was attacked by his roommate over a comment he made," said Borton.
Since that time, Borton's son now has three new mates in his dorm suite. She checked out all three on Facebook and MySpace.
She even does a quick background check.
"Case.net is very informative for Missouri," said Borton. "If they've ever been in trouble with the law or if they're over 18 and they've had tickets, it will come up. You can also look up their parents."
While these sites come in handy, parents and colleges agree, there's no substitute for a real conversation.
"They need to have a meaningful conversation," said Whitcher-Skinner. "We encourage parents not to jump to conclusions about what they see on sites."
Students like Amber Walker say sometimes you never know if it will be a match made in roommate heaven. "As soon as you meet, set some ground rules," said Walker.
Southeast Missouri State University has 81 trained residential life coordinators ready to handle issues that come up between students.