Over the last couple of years there have been a number of stories about the bad behaviour that students get up to at university, both here in the UK and overseas. From individuals desecrating monuments to sports teams singing songs containing offensive lyrics, there’s been a real succession of shameful student bad behaviour.

What has your response been to these sorts of antics? Generally the reaction of other young people to student bad behaviour that makes it into the media goes one of two ways. Some people are genuinely offended and appalled. And others, while not taking any particular stance on the behaviour itself, condemn the stupidity of the students involved for allowing themselves to be photographed or recorded saying or doing things that were likely to get them into trouble.

Whichever of these two responses you have had to stories of student bad behaviour, if you’re soon to be going to university or are currently a student it’s worth taking these stories as cautionary tales, and be on guard against ensuring you don’t become the villain in the next one of these stories.

You might assume that this scenario is unlikely to happen to you. And while you could be right, it’s a good idea to avoid being complacent. It’s unlikely that the young people whose student bad behaviour has got them in the news or landed them in trouble thought that they’d ever do what they ended up doing. But a combination of alcohol, peer pressure and the heat of the moment can lead to people doing things that they look back on with disgust the next day.

And the key thing with these stories of student bad behaviour is that they do represent just one moment in that student’s life, but the damaging consequences of that moment on their lives lasts much, much longer. Whether in the form of a criminal conviction, disciplinary action from the university or social stigma, student bad behaviour stories have truly long-term negative impacts on those caught up in them, regardless of how out of character their actions were or how much they plead that their actions have been taken out of context or not seen as the jokey behaviour they were intended to be. In an age of social media and smartphones, a moment of madness can be recorded and spread forever.

We’re not for a second suggesting that you curtail the social fun you have at university. The social side of being a student is a key part of the undergraduate experience and will provide you with treasured memories and lifelong friendships. But to prevent yourself falling into the trap of indulging in student bad behaviour that goes viral and then hits the media, we’d recommend that you always keep the following points in mind:

Don’t think it can’t happen to you–we all do stupid and out-of-character things, especially when we’re young. And while if you do something risqu or dumb you and the people doing it might swear no offense was intended, if it doesn’t look that way to other people that defence will count for nothing.

It’s not good enough to be discreet–even if you don’t have Facebook or Twitter, your fellow students do. It’s far, far better to avoid doing the sorts of things that we see in news stories on student bad behaviour altogether rather than calculating that your actions won’t make it onto social media.

Think of the long-term consequences–Once something is recorded on a phone and uploaded to the internet, it’s there forever. Anyone (including your university’s authorities and–in the worst case scenario–the police) will be able to see it. And if the consequences of these parties seeing it are being kicked off your course or ending up before a judge, you’ll be regretting your antics for much more longer than just the day after.

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