ONCE teenagers would have swapped stories of misadventure and details of their romantic conquests on the phone, at the local cafe or behind the bike sheds – somewhere out of earshot of their teachers and parents.

These days, those candid chats and wayward boasts take place online on social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, and not only are teachers and parents able to listen in (if they know how), future employers, college admissions tutors and even bank managers can all access those embarrassing youthful exploits too, now and for years to come.

A recent inquiry on behalf of the Government into personal data sharing in the UK reported that the first generation of social networkers are now reaching an age where they are applying for jobs – and finding that details about their past are openly available to prospective employers.

Dr Mark Walport, the Director of the Wellcome Trust and the report’s joint author, said: “There are worries that some of the information that particularly young people post on the internet may come back to bite them.”

Earlier in the year, recruitment consultant Badenoch & Clark warned that as many as 62 per cent of employers have checked social networking sites when evaluating job applicants.

There have been some high-profile cases of a “slap in the Facebook” too. The Mayor of Kidderminster found himself in hot water after photos of him sitting on a friend’s shoulders while hanging off a street sign were posted on the site.

Campaigners fighting antisocial behaviour in the area called for Marcus Hart, who at 30 is the town’s youngest ever mayor, to resign. He kept his job however and declared at the time: “People have told me how great it is to have a youthful mayor and it would be a sad state of affairs if they saw this photo and thought I was acting in an antisocial way.”

Many job candidates also see their profiles as normal for their generation, and unlikely to injure their prospects. In fact a recent survey found that half of jobseekers are not worried by an employer check of their internet presence.

Furthermore, two out of five people said they would think about submitting their social networking profile alongside their CV when applying for a new job, according to the poll by Zinc Research and Dufferin Research.

Brian Singh, managing director of Zinc Research, urged companies to use the social networking phenomenon to their advantage.

“Companies that grasp this reality and develop a Facebook-related attraction and retention strategy will better connect to their workforce and get the upper hand in business,” he said. Of course, whatever your situation, or your age, it always pays to be cautious of the personal information you share online, even with friends.

American job-hunting expert Alison Doyle, who writes for About.com, has the following advice for jobhunters who social network, or who blog – including how to turn your profile to your advantage: l Don’t include a link on your CV to any site which includes inappropriate content that is not appropriate for a business audience.

l Be very careful what you put online. If you have a MySpace or Facebook account, people you won’t want to be reading your profile may be able to access it, even if you think nobody will read it. Make your account private, so only your friends can access it. Be extra careful, and don’t post anything that you don’t want a prospective employer (or your mum!) to read.

l Don’t list your blog on your CV unless it’s relevant to the career field or position that you are interviewing for. For example, if you are seeking employment as a financial planner and you have a personal finance blog, include it. If you have a blog about your dog, don’t.

l Consider starting a blog related to your career interests. If you, for example, are interested in a career in real estate, consider blogging about industry trends, news and related topics.

l Post in haste, repent in leisure. Remember that a hastily written blog post critical of your job or detailing your wild night with a hot date can be read today, regardless of when it was posted. You may not even remember posting it, but, a potential employer will certainly keep it mind.