From Facebook to Jail
By Zur Institute
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Consider anything you post on Facebook (and online in general) to be written on your forehead.
Help yourself and your clients (young clients and their parents) understand the significance of online transparency.
Some of us are overly concerned with privacy in the digital era, refusing to buy things online with a credit card or join social networking sites. Others among us, particularly young people (therapists and their clients), are often too free with what they post and give out online.
Transparency is, obviously, very important for psychotherapists and counselors. What prospective clients can find out about us online, including our Facebook Profiles and Pages, often determines whether they decide to call us for an initial interview. Online information can also impact the course of therapy, a therapist's reputation, and employment opportunities in clinics or hospitals. Some experts and agencies have been exploring the ethical and legal ramifications of certain (non-professional) posting by therapists.
One young man landed in jail after prosecutors discovered pictures of him drinking on his Facebook page and dressed like a jailbird for Halloween while awaiting trial for a hit-and-run. This character evidence found on his Facebook wall was used successfully to push for his conviction and a stronger penalty. He received a sentence of two years in prison rather than the probation that was originally intended (USA Today).
Clearly, this sort of exposure of unkempt behavior is most easily avoided by acting respectfully at all times. But in lieu of that, given that people will err, it's important to keep in mind that elements on one's Facebook page or other social networking sites are accessible by those sufficiently motivated to discover the content you post. Privacy settings help a great deal, and we strongly recommend learning how to implement them, and using them thoughtfully. With the use of privacy settings, you can control who sees your pictures, posts, comments, wall, etc. However, privacy breeches are not uncommon. As one keen observer put it "Consider anything you post on Facebook to be written on your forehead."
Online Courses that Address the Issue of Online Transparency