Yes. You read that right. A social media background check is now possible thanks to a ruling by the Federal Trade Commission. It also provides us parents with further reinforcement that it’s incredibly important to teach our children how to “safely and responsibility network online.”
The FTC ruling authorizes companies to provide reports on an individual’s online actions by reviewing up to seven years worth of publically available records. These “publically available records” include everything from what your child may say and post on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to Craigslist ads and personal blog posts. Sure, companies could take a peek at someone’s online actions prior to this ruling, but they were mostly limited to what they found on Google or searched on Facebook or MySpace. This ruling gives organizations information on you (or your child) from seven years back. So, whatever your now-15-year-old child is posting online, may affect what college they get into or what job they get, which is all the more reason for you to be involved in what and where they post online.
Social Intelligence, a company that specializes in “reducing organizational risk” by helping employers learn more about potential employees via the Internet, has hit the ground running with this ruling. Mat Honan, a writer from Gizmodo, experimented with Social Intelligence’s tool by running a social media background check on his self. He failed however as it turns out he mentioned some recreational drug use in an old blog post. But that’s just one example of negative activity that can be flagged in a social media background check—employers can also scan for things like racist remarks and sexually explicit images.
You can see Mat’s full post, along with some photos from his background check, here.
These background checks don’t only check for negative activity, though. Employers are also able to see the good things that your son or daughter may have posted on their social network profile, like involvement with charity organizations. And if, for example, your child’s Facebook profile is set to private, it’s no longer considered public information, and therefore inaccessible.
As mentioned at the outset, this ruling should reinforce the need for us to continue to teach, show, and talk to our kids about safe and responsible social networking, and the importance of “thinking before posting”. For our tweens and teens, it’s not a moment too soon for them to learn that social media is a digital resume that expands far beyond work experience. The things they say and do online actually build a profile about them; they can choose to make it work in their favor, or to their disadvantage.
Will your teen pass a social media background check five years from now?