The dangers of Web 2.0 became painfully apparent to one young teenager this week, when he was removed from his Cambridge school for writing rude things about his headmaster on the Bebo social networking site.
The Cambridge Evening News reported on Wednesday that the boy had been removed from The Leys School because his online remarks had 'brought the school into disrepute,' according to headmaster Mark Slater.
What worried the headmaster was not that pupils were insulting him, but that people coming across the comments might think badly of the school. Kids have always written rude things about their teachers, but writing them on the internet has much wider ramifications than scratching them on a desk or scrawling them inside a pencil case. Comments made on the internet are public, persistent, and 'findable' by search engines.
It's not just institutions that should be concerned about their online reputation. People who use social networking sites, blogs and micro-blogging services like Twitter are steadily building up an online picture of themselves that employers are finding very useful when weighing up job candidates.
In February, for example, the HR director of PR agency Brands2Life told CNN that she had turned down a job applicant because of some 'unsuitable' things the candidate had written online about a former employer.
Today's teenagers are growing up online and in public. They may not think about it much, but their contributions to sites like MySpace, Bebo, Facebook and LiveJournal could remain online long after they grow up. Some will find that their youthful prose, videos and photos come back to bite them when they start job-hunting.
On the other hand, the increasing use of these sites may eventually lead to a tolerance shift among employers. There may be a reluctant acceptance that people are, after all, only human. When everyone’s human foibles are laid bare online, the occasional off-colour rant, photo or confession may no longer be considered as anything out of the ordinary – and headmasters may come to see derogatory online comments as no more damaging to their school’s overall reputation than a rude word scratched on a desk.
tags: bebo | facebook