September 02, 2008 |
Usage of internet, including social networking websites, is becoming a serious issue for athletic departments across the US. Recently two Nebraska athletes have appeared on a porn website and have been dismissed from the wrestling team as a result. This incident has made the sports officials realize that web usage by athletes may pose a serious problem and should be addressed properly since it can damage the image of a team and a university – not only of the athlete in question.
The logical decision now is to enhance monitoring of internet usage by sportsmen. While many schools across the nation already offer guidelines to students about appropriate behavior when using social networking sites, Nebraska was an exception – schools in the state only offered a general warning to avoid activity that could cause embarrassment. Clearly, the general warning was not explicit enough to adhere to.
Now Nebraska athletes will be warned about use of social networking sites and content their profiles can feature as well as about upcoming monitoring of their online activities. And it looks like it’s about time they did notice the problem as right now the situation in Nebraska that overlooked the potential problem for a while seems to be completely out of control: Associated Press reports on a random check of various Nebraska sportsmen that revealed “pictures of athletes partially undressed and party photos as well as comments about sexual activity, racial slurs and criticism of coaches”. Now that the measures will be applied in the state, students may face a few unpleasant surprises because of their online activities – especially since they may be absolutely sure their content is only visible to people they add as friends themselves.
I do think this is a logical move finally simply because any institution with the slightest idea of what online brand management is should realize that any profile of any employee or representative may pose a danger of revealing something far from pleasant that can be used by competitors or result in damages to institution reputation. True, there are also some examples of excessive approaches to preventing online embarrassment: Chicago’s Loyola University has barred its athletes from having profiles on social networking sites completely. And while such measure definitely sound like too much for me – especially given the current situation when young people spend increasingly more time socializing online – there must be a balanced approach to monitoring activities and acting appropriately.
There’s no denying to the fact that this problem is valid not only to an athlete but to any person facing any chances of public attention (or any attention to their profile at all). We have already seen situations when job applications were rejected and people were fired because of information they made publicly available on their social networking profiles.
And while students may need special lectures featuring examples of what could be considered as inappropriate or embarrassing content for their profiles on social networks, usually common sense is perfectly enough for anyone realizing that everything you willingly make public yourself will get a chance of being visible to someone you never intended it for.