Author(s): Ann Stuursma, Tara Velting

As your children and grandchildren head back to school this fall, it might not be a
bad time to caution them on the use of social networking sites, especially teenagers and
college age children.

Caution your children to set up appropriate privacy settings on their accounts.
There are many reasons why you want to ensure your children do not have public accounts
or accounts that are searchable and viewable by anyone looking for them. There are some
obvious reasons for wanting to ensure privacy. For example, if your ex-spouse has court
ordered parenting time with your child, then you do not want him or her contacting your
child online or monitoring your child’s activities online.

Sometimes there are less than obvious reasons as well for wanting to ensure
privacy on your social networking sites. Attorneys are frequently using such sites for
discovery purposes in lawsuits. For example, when someone claims a serious physical
injury, but pictures on that person’s website show that person water skiing and snow
boarding post “injury,” that might be good evidence for the defense that the supposed
“injury” may not be as serious as claimed.

Perhaps more important, if your child ever finds himself/herself on the wrong side
ofthe law being charged with an offense, you might be the first to state that this is surely
the first time your child has acted in such a manner. You might be quick to ask a
prosecutor to give your child a break or a good deal based upon the fact that your child is
a great citizen. More and more prosecutors are using social network sites to research their
defendants and find pictures and evidence that this is most certainly not the first time your
child has acted in such a manner.

Many social network site users seem to especially enjoy posting pictures of
themselves partying, drinking, and generally having a good time. When you are hiding
behind your laptop at home, the internet can seem somewhat safe and anonymous. lt is
anything but that. Caution your children that their postings are there for the world to see
and potentially discoverable in a lawsuit.

For more information, contact Ann Stuursma and Tara Velting.