Office for Student Affairs > Safety > Online Communities

Living in Online Communities: A User's Guide

There are a variety of online communication tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that help students make new connections and keep in touch with friends. While there are many benefits to these websites, some users have experienced unintended consequences because of what they have chosen to post online. If you utilize any online communities, ask yourself the following questions:

Am I sharing too much personal information?

Sharing too much personal information, including your address, telephone number, birthday, class schedule, etc., can put you at risk for identity theft, stalking, harassment, and other problems. Just because there is a field for certain information does not mean you have to fill it in.

Are there things on my site (pictures, stories, etc.) that are inappropriate or potentially embarrassing?

Some of the materials that you or others may post on your site might be of an inappropriate or embarrassing nature and may reflect poorly on you, your friends, family, or on members of organizations with which you are affiliated. It is possible that current or potential employers may have access to some of these sites and may make decisions affecting your employment based on what they see.

Are there things on my site (pictures, stories, etc.) that depict or describe illegal activity?

Pictures or other evidence of illegal behavior, such as underage drinking, could put you at risk for legal consequences, including violations of the Student Conduct Code and Housing and Residential Life policies. Regardless of the privacy settings set to your account, anything you post online may become public information.

Do I have my friend’s permission to post pictures or stories about them online?

It is natural to want to share pictures or stories that include you and your friends online. However, you should check with your friends first to make sure that they do not object to being included in whatever you are posting. You should ask them to show you the same courtesy.

Have I chosen the appropriate privacy setting for my account?

Many sites allow you to select different privacy settings so that you can control who can view your profile, postings, etc. You should make sure you choose the setting that gives you the privacy you desire.

Have I read the terms and conditions of use for the website I am using?

It is very important that you read the terms and conditions for any website where you create an account. Several sites, including Facebook.com, retain ownership of any information that you post on your profile and can use the material any way they want, whenever they want. When using online communities be sure to read the privacy and safety policies for each site to better understand how your information will be used.

It sounds like many bad things can occur through social networking. Maybe I should just stay away from them?

This information is not intended to scare you away from online communities. Social networking can be a great way to connect with others. The University just wants to make sure that you make choices that allow you to experience the benefits of these sites and avoid the negatives.

Online Communities at the University of Minnesota

The University has its own online community too, called MyU. All students, staff and faculty have an account that is accessed by entering their own unique log-in. If you have not accessed your account yet, visit www.umn.edu/initiate. MyU creates an easy starting point to access e-mail, One Stop, discussion boards, and more. Just sign in at myu.umn.edu, and find out! Also, be sure to visit safecomputing.umn.edu to learn more about making safe choices with your computer, and the information you post online.

Access college-specific information that will inform you of college events, advising information, and career exploration and much more! See what MyU has for you at myu.umn.edu!