Youths’ openness on networking sites brings big troubleLee, a senior at an international school in Seoul, is like many teenagers these days.
In addition to studying many hours each day and preparing for college, she frequently shares the ups and downs of her life on Facebook, writing updates about her daily travails and posting pictures of her personal life.
But Lee's relative openness online recently carried some real-world consequences. After posting pictures on Facebook of her drinking alcohol with friends, Lee received an in-school suspension for three days. As it turns out, a teacher whom Lee added as her “friend” on Facebook saw the pictures and notified the principal, who then notified her parents.
“Frankly, I felt invaded,” Lee said. “I wasn’t even on school grounds. I think I have the right to do what I want outside of school. The school and its teachers shouldn't be allowed to invade my privacy and try to control my life outside of school.”
With the rise in popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, more teenagers and young adults are encountering privacy issues that threaten to derail their education and even their careers. At present, out of its current users, about 32 percent of Facebook's users are between the ages of 18 and 24, and their numbers are growing every day.
Many teens freely post private information and controversial pictures on these sites without giving it a second thought, leaving details of their personal lives out there for parents, teachers and even strangers to see.
Sun, a student in the same grade as Lee, was also forced to face the consequences of her activities on Facebook. Sun's foul language online and personal photos were used against her when she was punished for another incident.
“I confess that part of it is my fault. Facebook enables you to control your privacy options and it's my fault that I didn't utilize it to its fullest,” Sun explained. She said that if she had added her teachers as friends, they would have had every right to see things she has put up for public consumption. However, she argued that being punished based on one picture was unreasonable, and most of the time, the teachers didn’t know the whole story. “In my opinion, using stuff I put on Facebook against me without even knowing the whole story just seems really unfair,” Sun said.
Even stars are not immune to punishment, as the pop idol Jaebeom - who left the group 2PM and fled the country after netizens discovered comments he wrote on MySpace mocking Korea - can attest to.
In the educational realm, teachers and school officials claim that they only want to protect their students.
“It is my responsibility to provide a safe environment at school, and activities outside of school that affect that are my business,” said a principal of a local international school.
The principal said there is legal precedent for taking action against students for online behavior.
The sites also have extensive privacy options, so observers say students have no one to blame but themselves when they post controversial content.
*This article was written with the assistance of JoongAng Daily reporter Cho Jae-eun.
By Choi Da-young [firstname.lastname@example.org]