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Rules to Live By Online

The University of Texas at Austin
Counseling and Mental Health Center
SSB 5th Floor
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

If you wouldn't post it on your front door, don't post it online. Web transmissions aren't foolproof unless they use secure forms of authentication and encryption. Posting something online is just as open and available to others as posting something on your door. Be cautious in providing specific information on where and how to reach you. Posting your cell phone number, apartment location, and class schedule online may seem like a great way to make sure your friends can reach you, but this information can also be used for purposes of stalking and harassment.

Your online profile may be the only impression someone has of you.While close friends may know you're joking about something you've posted, another student, staff member, or faculty member who stumbles across your profile may have only that information to gauge who you are. Keep in mind, too, that employers are on Facebook, and many companies look at online profiles of potential candidates before granting interviews. Also, hitting the delete button doesn't always solve the problem. People may have printed or saved your profile or pictures, and many ISPs and servers back up or duplicate the information, retaining it indefinitely. Make sure the image you're projecting online is one that accurately represents you. If your mom, your dad, your professors, or a potential employer wouldn't approve, think twice before posting it.

Use privacy settings to help control who can access your information. Many sites, including Facebook, allow you to restrict the availability of your profile to certain individuals. While these settings provide no guarantees, they can be a useful tool in gaining some control over your details and photos.

Check your privacy settings every three months. Facebook often changes account and privacy features, so checking them frequently may be helpful. Facebook offers the feature to view your profile as it is seen by the public, or by specific friends. Using this feature regularly can help you to ensure that only information you want viewable is seen among certain audiences.

Civility matters (even on the Internet). The web is a great way to connect with others, and sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide opportunities to join an ever-growing community. But remember that UT expects students to abide by the Honor Code, and that community extends into cyberspace. The rules of civility still apply on the web. Be respectful. Be honest. Be responsible.

Adapted with permission from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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