School District Monitors Students’ Social Media and Why This May Be a Good Thing

iStock_000020971851XSmallParenting in the digital age is a new frontier and has a whole host of complex issues that didn’t exist when we were kids. One of the biggest is cyber-bullying, which can have a devastating effect on children as they attempt to navigate the social minefields of youth. Back in our day, maybe there was a mean note passed, something scribbled in a “slam book,” or perhaps there was some whispered gossip in the schoolyard. But nowadays, kids are flinging insults and cruelty in a wider way via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

As a parent, you may feel helpless; you want to protect your children from this public virtual flogging, but, sadly, cyber-bullying does not seem to be slowing down. One school district in California has found a creative albeit invasive solution that is not unlike a modern high-tech hall monitor. The Glendale Unified School District in Southern California hired the surveillance company Geo Listening to track the social media posts of as many of its 14,000 students as they can by tracking their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs to see if there is any incriminating evidence being posted.

The AP reports, “Analysts are alerted to terms that suggest suicidal thoughts, bullying, vandalism, and even the use of obscenities, among other things. When they find posts they think should spur an intervention or anything that violates schools’ student codes of conduct, the company alerts the campus.”

And while some may exclaim that this reeks of “big brother” and that it can be seen as a violation of their privacy, I would have to argue that something needs to be done, and this might just be a good thing. On the day that I am writing this, there is a funeral for 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick, who was a victim of cyber bullying. Fifteen girls reportedly harassed the girl via Facebook, and it got so bad that the young girl took her own life. Things got very out of hand. There is no way to say for sure, but if the harassment had been caught early, perhaps Rebecca Ann Sedwick would still be alive.

But I find that I am conflicted on this topic. I feel that everyone has a right to his or her privacy, but in this new social media-driven world we live in, privacy, in many ways, has changed. These students are going to a public forum to voice their opinions, be it good or bad. It’s not like us adults are sneaking into their bedrooms to read their diaries. If they didn’t want their words and images to be seen, they shouldn’t post them on the internet. These bullies need to be held accountable for their actions, and perhaps if they knew they were being watched, they would be less likely to post negative things about their classmates and peers. One thing is for sure: doing nothing is not the answer. Monitoring kids’ social media may not be the ideal solution, but if it could stop one case of cyber-bullying, it would be worth it.

What do you think of students’ social media being monitored? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

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