Schools Monitor Social Media in California

Schools monitor social media to protect children from cyberbullying.  It sounds extreme but, at this point, what else can schools do to help protect teens from cyberbullies?

According to CNN, “a suburban Los Angeles school district is now looking at the public postings on social media by middle and high school students, searching for possible violence, drug use, bullying, truancy and suicidal threats.  The district in Glendale, California, is paying $40,500 to a firm to monitor and report on 14,000 middle and high school students’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media for one year. Though critics liken the monitoring to government stalking, school officials and their contractor say the purpose is student safety.”

Its a critical debate that will soon reverberate across the nation?  Schools monitor social media to protect children, which is part of their mandate, but schools face increasing scrutiny from privacy regulators to see if they are extending their mandate into students’ private lives.

From the school’s perspective, there is little choice.  After high profile suicides by young children Gabrielle Molina, Hannah Smith, Rehtaeh Parsons, and, just this week, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, schools have to take high profile steps to protect their students.

The California district monitoring students has also reported positive results.  According to CNN, “among the results was a successful intervention with a student “who was speaking of ending his life” on his social media, said Chris Frydrych, CEO of the firm.  That intervention was significant because two students in the district committed suicide the past two years, said Superintendent Richard Sheehan. The suicides occurred at a time when California has reduced mental health services in schools, Sheehan said. ‘We were able to save a life,’ Sheehan said, adding the two recent suicides weren’t outside the norm for school districts. “It’s just another avenue to open up a dialogue with parents about safety.'”



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