Cyber bullying has become a major issue in recent years and the debate on how to handle this issue has become increasingly important. Is it a parent’s job to monitor their kids’ social media accounts or should public school systems get involved? Many people believe there needs to be a balance between parental monitoring and school involvement. Students need to be protected from online dangers but there privacy also needs to be protected.
The Glendale school district in Los Angeles hired a tech firm, Geo Listening, to monitor students’ social networking sites for keywords related to cyber bullying, drug use and school violence. They can see exactly what they have typed, where they have been and what they have been doing. “These could be posts that are initiated from school, or not; using school-owned technology, or not. The technology also allows for the flagging and reporting of drug use or class-cutting – or really anything publicly posted by a student that could be viewed as problematic to the school”, said Justin W. Patchin.
This program may be increasing the schools sense of security but it is making the students feel like their privacy and security has been taken away. “..but students will feel their speech chilled knowing that the school district is watching,” said Anupam Chander. Students may behave differently online if they know that school officials are watching everything they do. This may be a good thing but it will most likely have negative side effects.
According to CNN’s Kelly Wallace, it has cost the Glendale school district 40,500 dollars annually to monitor all of their students’ social media sites. Is this an appropriate place to put school resources? Forty thousand dollars could be used for several other programs in the school system such as programs to educate parents and students about the Internet in general, but specifically social media. If parents are more aware of the social media sites their children are using they can more effectively regulate and monitor them without a lot of school interference. Also, if students are taught how to behave in an appropriate manner online by their parents and by school officials it will reduce incidents of cyber bullying. It is understandable that this is a big job for parents but it will require less invasive measures from school officials to prevent cyber bullying.
However, it is not reasonable to say that school monitoring to combat cyber bullying is ineffective because it has not been in place or researched for a long enough period of time. In the instance that it does stop or reduce school violence and self-harm significantly, the money invested in the tech firm may be worthy in the eyes of most.
The main issue with tracking students is the violation of privacy. “It’s students’ expression of their own thoughts and feelings to their friends,” said Young Cho, student at Herbert Hoover High School to the Los Angeles Times, “For the school to intrude in that area – I understand they can do it, but I don’t think it’s right.”
Many people, especially students, feel as if it is an invasion of their right to privacy. However, many would argue that if students are posting to public websites anyways it doesn’t matter if the school chooses to monitor their posts. At my high school there was an employee who was hired to monitor our social media accounts in order to maintain school security. I never felt like my privacy was being violated because any time I posted on social media I was aware that anyone, including my school officials, could see it. It all depends on the person and how educated they are about the Internet and social media.
In conclusion, tracking and monitoring students to combat serious issues, such as bullying and other violence can be effective if it is used under the right circumstances. The information would need to be highly secure with access granted to a minimal amount of people. It would need to be deleted after a certain number of days. Students and parents would also need to be aware of the monitoring. In addition to schools monitoring for keywords and phrases on social media sites, it is equally important for the school system to educate students on privacy issues and the dangers of bullying on the Internet (and in reality). The answer is not a clear cut yes or no because this issue is a lot more complicated than that. Students’ privacy is at risk when using a system like this but their safety is at risk if nothing is done about the issue.
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