News & Politics

Secret Life of Teens: Facebook – Can Yale see my Profile?

Editor’s Note: To protect the kids’ confidentiality, pseudonyms and photographs of models have been used.

Schools recently started warning students that college admissions officers surf Facebook. That got their attention.

“They can look back and see what someone wrote on your wall when you were a freshman—see if there’s anything mentioning a beer,” says Becky from Madeira.

A Churchill senior claims parents have notified colleges about another student’s profile to give their child a better shot of getting in.

Barbara Gill, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland, says some colleges hire staff to review applicants’ online profiles. But Gill and admissions officers at George Mason and Georgetown universities say they don’t. “There’s a big disconnect between what the public believes we do and what we actually do,” Gill says. “Philosophically, I’m not sure that I’m to a place where we want to police these sites.”

Regardless, scared teens are pulling their party pictures and turning down invitations to join weird-sounding groups. Others aren’t worried. A quick look on Facebook turns up lots of recent drinking photos, graphic language, and sexual innuendo. One girl has written “F*** cops” on her profile.

Psychologist Norman says students ignore his warnings that their posts are public and that even pages or comments they take down from the Web can still be found. Sitting at the keyboard, he says, they feel anonymous—and safe. “When this generation starts going into politics, imagine searching through their Facebook profiles.”

Lots of teens are more worried that colleges will peek at their profiles than they are about parents getting an eyeful. Mom and Dad are easy to dupe.

“I keep Microsoft Word up with some fake homework on it so I can open that up really quickly if they walk in,” says Todd.

Some teens show their parents part of their profile so they’ll stop asking. Most see adults checking out their profile as an invasion of privacy—even if they have nothing to hide.

Holly, a junior at National Cathedral School, says her mom wants a Facebook account but thinks she needs a school-based e-mail address to join. She doesn’t know that Facebook opened to all users in 2006. Now anyone can join.

“Don’t tell her that,” Holly says.