Social networking sites not always an intern's 'friend'

The father of a prospective college student recently asked me what kind of changes I was seeing in internships lately. Without hesitation, I had to say that social media related-opportunities were by far the fastest-growing area in which employers were seeking help. But even as social media sites provide internship opportunities, they also create pitfalls for potential interns in all industries.

Given the explosion of social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and the use of social media as a marketing tool, their demand for interns is no surprise. Employers want interns to blog about their firms, promoting and boosting their virtual image.

But would be interns of all kinds would do well to remember that with a few keystrokes, anyone – including a potential employer or internship supervisor -- can learn more about them than comfort might allow. For all of its benefits, cyberspace is a virtual Pandora's Box. Advertisers, credit card companies and casual snoopers are privy to information on a nearly unmitigated scale. Big Brother is not only watching, but might be able to gain virtual access to your address, Social Security number and checking account.