So it happened. Your first red cup picture has made its appearance on Facebook. Most likely you’re underage – and you’re probably a freshman who let your squeaky clean high school reputation slip a bit. But the question is – what do I do now?

In the United States, drinking under the age of  21 is illegal. However, for some reason, social networking sites like Facebook are hotbeds for photos of underage beer pong, keg stands, Jello shots, and undercover vice cops

Wait, what? Follow these tips below to protect yourself from getting into trouble by not being cautious enough on Facebook.

 

  1. Use common sense. It’s your choice to drink underage or smoke underage and I won’t make that one for you. But I would recommend against publicizing that info very openly. This only opens yourself to trouble. That means you don’t need to document your acts with videos or photos, but if you choose to, follow these tips below.
  2. Purge your friends list. In the hustle-and-bustle of collegiate life, sometimes our Facebook gets a bit neglected. Friends that appear to have been high school classmates or friends you met at that one party might not actually be. Take a bit of time aside, go through your Facebook friends list, and delete anyone you can’t remember meeting in person. This will save you some hassle and ensure that only your true friends can see your Facebook profile.
  3. Adjust your Facebook privacy settings. The recommended privacy settings are pretty good, but they allow your tagged photos and videos to be seen by your friends’ friends. That’s fine if they’re mutual friends, but even non-mutual friends would be able to see your tagged photos and videos and that might include your priest, your significant other’s parents and the town’s mayor. Go into your Privacy Settings and change that as soon as possible.
  4. De-tag that photo or video. This is usually the most common and most effective step. Hit “remove tag” and delete the tag of the photo or video on your profile. Some people will have seen it, so getting it untagged earlier rather than later is better. Unless the photo is really egregious, this is usually enough. If it’s bad enough, you might want to ask the uploader to delete it.
  5. Last resort – create a “Restricted” Facebook friend list. For most college students, I think this is TOO far, but your mileage may vary. If you have adults or people you don’t wish to be seeing your exploits on Facebook (which you can control from the first four steps), you can create a Friends List through “Manage Friends” on the “Account” tab on Facebook with all of the people whose access you wish to restrict. Then go to “Privacy Settings” on the same tab, and make sure “Tagged Photos and videos of you” is set to “Friends only” and an exception is set for the “Restricted” friends list.

 

Disclaimer: This is not 100% effective, and drinking and possessing alcohol under the age of 21 is a crime, just like possessing or smoking tobacco under the age of 18 is a crime. As long as underage drinking and smoking are against the law, law enforcement will be doing what they can to limit these offenses and Facebook is not off-limits. Also, this only can limit certain things you put on Facebook – specifically tagged photos and videos – everyone still will know you were watching the Season 2 premiere of Jersey Shore last night on MTV at 10 by your status updates. They were probably doing it too.