Behind the Screen

Are your children employable? Will pre-employment screening cost them a job?  

Parents, your teens and college students may be at risk of being “unemployable.” We hear many warnings about the Internet, but now (more than ever) is the time to take a hard look at the “online lives” of our children. Unwise use of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media may cost them a leg up on more than their reputations. It can affect their careers. Why? Because employers are increasingly interested in behavior and the Internet allows them to prescreen candidates. Young people who are unwise in their social interactions may find themselves haunted by youthful indiscretions which are, literally, visible to the world.

In a nutshell, employers may logically deduce that inappropriate online conduct equates to inappropriate workplace conduct.

Defining the Word “Unwise” 

As people pour their hearts out online, certain entities may very well be assessing behavior. For instance, rants about school or jobs, lashing out about relationships, or even “cyber-slacking” can carry penalties… at least in the world of human resources. Organizational psychologists may look for a variety of factors above and beyond foul language and sexually explicit posts. They may be watching for clues into Internet addiction and mental health. Prescreening means “pre-judgement.” The focus is on weeding out potential hires who may abuse their online privileges on the job. No one is immune, for “cyber-stalking” by any number of organizations (and individuals) is common in this day and age.

Employers want to hire people with sound judgment, not dubious behavior, and the Internet may become an albatross around the neck of potential candidates. Sadly, these employment experts may base their assessment strictly on what they find online—which means the “real” heart and mind of your child may never shine in an actual job interview because the impression has been clouded by unwise cyber interaction.

A much-cited article brings light to this issue. Entitled “Validation of a New Scale for Measuring Problematic Internet Use: Implications for Pre-employment Screening,” this scholarly insight certainly raises implications for us all. We share an abstract  below and encourage you to look at it closely.


The current study introduced a theory-driven, multidimensional measure of problematic Internet use: the Online Cognition Scale (OCS). Undergraduate students (n = 211) in an industrial/organizational psychology course completed the OCS, along with measures of procrastination, rejection sensitivity, loneliness, depression, and impulsivity. A confirmatory factor analysis indicated that problematic Internet use consists of four dimensions: diminished impulse control, loneliness/depression, social comfort, and distraction. As hypothesized, the OCS predicted all of the study variables in the expected directions. Representing a departure from previous research in this area, the current article focused on procrastination, impulsivity, and social rejection as key elements of problematic Internet use. Furthermore, interactive applications (e.g., chat) were most related to problematic Internet use, and scores on the OCS predicted being reprimanded at school or work for inappropriate Internet use. As a result, the utility of the OCS for both clinical assessment of Internet addiction and as an organizational preemployment screening measure to identify potential employees who are likely to abuse the Internet in the workplace (also known as “cyberslacking”) were discussed.

Citation:  Richard A. Davis, Gordon L. Flett, and Avi Besser. CyberPsychology & Behavior. August 2002, 5(4): 331-345. doi:10.1089/109493102760275581.

What You Can Do 

It can be awkward to “invade” your child’s privacy, but minor children should be supervised on all social media forums. The temptations stemming from loneliness, peer pressure and an incessant desire to “fit in” and be “popular” can drive our youth to follow the crowd. Perhaps the agreement should be:

“If I allow you to use the computer, you must agree to be supervised. I will occasionally look at your online activity. Are we in agreement?”

Another way of putting it: “I love you. Facebook does not love you. I have your best interests at heart. Twitter does not. I want you to excel and prosper. Tumblr could care less about your prosperity.”

Another tactic: “We are all vulnerable to online surveillance. Employers can check all your online activity. Why set yourself up to fail? Be a good steward of the Internet and have it work FOR you, not AGAINST you. I am here to help you succeed.”

Harsher: “You will not shame our family. You will not stoop to the lowest common denominator. I have raised you better than that. Your future is brighter than that. Your reputation is more valuable than that.”

One more idea: “Your posts are a reflection of your character. Make sure your posts  do some good in the world. Make sure they witness to your core values.”

Hand Over the Passwords 

Ask your child for log in and password codes for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Skype and other popular social platforms. Then check them out. What is your child posting? What are others posting? You have a right to know. You have a responsibility to know.

Some parents will be relieved to find civil, respectful and appropriate online usage. Unfortunately, others may discover extremely objectionable language and graphics—a direct reflection of today’s moral decline. If so, perhaps God has just handed you a “teachable moment.” Now is the time to discuss the transparency of social media.

Once posts go online, they remain in cyberspace forever… regardless of whether they are deleted from Facebook. The cyber imprint is still there, and even with privacy settings others may be able to find them. The lesson: Your posts can be held against you.

College Students 

Students who no longer live at home have at their disposal all the freedoms… and vices… that interest future employers. 18-and19-year-olds fit into that strange “no man’s land” of teenager vs. adult. They are now legal entities but have not fully developed. Perhaps this is the time to appeal to their adult status and share the study cited above. After all, no one wants to waste college tuition on a degree that is marred by pre-employment screening. Right?


Remember, you are not preventing your child from interacting online. But you ARE requiring them to be civil and thoughtful in what they post. Just as all Christians develop a “filter” and strive to follow Jesus’ example, so should our youth. And guess what? Pre-employment screening can take into account those who show online discretion and intellect. This proves that Godly behavior pays off. The bottom line is that the word of God, indeed, censors our behavior and this applies to all aspects of life—even virtual reality.

Biblical Perspective

Galations 6: 7-9 gives us an incredibly on-point summation.

7: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8: For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

9: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

The Urban Dictionary Agrees 

A random Googling of “you reap what you sow” brought up the Urban Dictionary, known for its modern (and often salacious) vernacular. But even the extremely secular Urban Dictionary yielded this result in language our youth can easily understand.


1. Everything that you do has repercussions. It comes back to you one way or another.

2. You cannot escape the consequences of your actions. What you do comes back to you.

3. You will see the long-term effects of your actions.

4. Karma—The total effect of a person’s actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person’s existence, regarded as determining the person’s destiny, especially, in his next incarnation.

5. What goes around comes around.

6. Your actions all have consequences. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that your actions don’t have consequences. Don’t think you can get away with bad choices even if you don’t seem to get caught.

Remember, Galations 6: 7 tells us that God cannot be mocked. He sees it all. You really do reap what you sow. What we sow in one season, we reap in another.

Sow a thought, you reap an act. Sow an act, you reap a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap a consequence.  

Staff Writer
Staff Writer

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