Abington students learn to manage their online identities

If Alexia Hudson ever wants to become a stylist, she had better hope potential employers don’t delve too deeply into her online identity. Why? Because her digital footprint reveals participation in some of the great fashion crimes of the 1990s.

There isn’t anything inappropriate in the image, which a college friend had innocently posted on Facebook. But Hudson, a reference librarian at Penn State Abington, showed it to illustrate to a group of first-semester students that their online identities can’t be erased and can impact their lives for years to come.

“Do you know that many employers and college admissions departments conduct Google searches of candidates?” she asked during the Managing Your Online Identity session. “Your Facebook account can be used as a judgment statement for or against you.”

Hudson explained that everything you do in the digital world – and everything other people post about you – leaves a trail.

“We are here to help manage you as the brand,” she said before reviewing the intricacies behind the security and privacy settings on Facebook as well as the University’s position on protecting their online identities.

Hudson offered them some ground rules for managing their online identities:

-- Set up two or more social networking accounts: one for fun and another that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to show your grandmother. Use privacy and security settings to control access to these accounts.

-- Change passwords and review privacy and security settings every three months.

-- Block apps and people with whom you don’t wish to be associated.

-- Don’t play games that could be considered pejorative or negative.

-- Think before you post photos and messages. Some could be considered harassment and could be used as evidence in lawsuits or criminal investigations.

-- Don’t disparage people, including employers or instructors, or use epithets regarding race, gender or sexual orientation.

-- View three short videos from Penn State’s Office of Information Technology Services that clearly explain security issues and offer practical advice. Go to tlt.its.psu.edu/profiles/computingsecurity

Hudson told the students that she wasn’t there “to suck all of the joy out of social networking.” She reminded them of its many positive facets: expanding social and professional networks, playing games, swapping knowledge and news, and conducting course-related research.

Managing Your Online Identity is one of six sessions developed by the library for the Abington Passport to Excellence program, which are offered during the campus’ common lunch break. The librarians are offering six courses this fall including online identity: Navigating PSU Libraries, Library Research in the Digital Age, Evaluating Information, Using Google Effectively, and The Best App for That!

Binh Le, associate librarian, and Paula Smith, reference and instruction librarian, also teach the seminars.

Passport to Excellence, a component of the Academic Affairs-based First Year Engagement, focuses on academic skills, academic enrichment, and career and personal development. The goal of the program is to increase students’ success by exposing them to the academic resources and services of the campus as well as engaging them in the traditions, values and principles of the Abington College.