Birthday parties can quickly get out of hand. A Sweet Sixteen party turned sour as it became a Facebook birthday bash. The unsuspecting teenage girl, identified only as Thessa, neglected to restrict access to an invitation to her party. Although only one-tenth of the 15,000 respondents to her post showed up, more than 100 police arrived to contend with 1,600 people in the street outside her Hamburg, Germany residence.

German Police protected the house of "Thessa" when 1,600 people showed up at her 16th birthday partyArrests were made for a couple fires, a little violence, and some property damage. Too much reveling sent several kids to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. However, Mirko Streiber, police spokesperson, said "It was by and large a peaceful party." Still, it?s probably a celebration Thessa will never forget.

Our son has yet to forget a similar fiasco, although it did not involve on-line social networking at the time. He simply told a few teammates to come over for his birthday party after the football game. Those friends told other friends and, in our absence, our house and yard was filled with players and tag-a-longs from both teams who brought their own liquid refreshments. Junior finally called the police himself to rid the area of all the celebrants who had gotten out of hand.

Birthdays seem to be the catalyst for all sorts of mischief. Last year in Australia, a fake birthday invitation posting on Facebook generated 200,000 responses to another 16th birthday party. A 17 year old male was arrested and charged with intent to harass/offend contrary to the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act. He had assumed the girl?s identity under another Facebook profile to spread the invitation. After identifying the boy, police seized two computer hard-disk drives from his home.

Hill Street BluesFacebook has gained a reputation as a vehicle for harassment. Most cases are simply annoying, others have been more damaging. Sometimes not only the target, but the perpetrator is affected. Under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act, if a person is found guilty of the alleged offence the penalty is imprisonment for a maximum of three years.

When you use Facebook, keep in mind the admonishment of Hill Street Blues police Sgt. Esterhaus, "Let?s be careful out there."

Facebook continues to be a popular and useful way to connect. There are many sites with tips for using the social network tool. Here you can learn how to set up birthday reminders for Facebook friends in Google Calendar. Here you will find ideas for making your wish to a friend stand out from the other well wishers.