If It Keeps Them Safe, Sure - Let Schools Snoop On Kids

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 

There is a new program some schools are implementing to monitor posts made by their students on Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media. If it helps keep our kids safe, I’m all for it.

From Today, Bill Sublette, chairman of Florida’s Orange County School Board explains, “It monitors key words that could present threats, for example ‘gun’ or ‘attack’ or ‘kill’ or words of that nature.” The Orange Country School Board released a statement saying, “Because social media can be the source of bullying, school threats or masked cries for help, we believe it is appropriate to monitor public sites where anybody can view comments.”

Parenting in the digital age presents many new issues for us to contemplate as far as the safety of our kids. One that has come up repeatedly over the last few years is the privacy of students in regard to social media and the question of what role a school should play when it comes to a student’s social media accounts. Some say monitoring social media is a job for parents. Others feel that schools need to be involved since whatever happens on social media could undoubtedly seep into student life somehow. I fall firmly into the latter camp. Feel free to snoop on my kids and their social media accounts if it means they are going to be safer at school.

Some parents from the schools using this program say it’s an invasion of privacy. One mom explains, “Their role isn’t to parent.” I agree. It isn’t. However, this isn’t a matter of parenting. This is a matter of students, faculty, and staff being as safe as possible while on school grounds. If a school can find ways to mitigate potential threats and stop something tragic before it happens, they need to take that method and run with it.

Also, privacy? Sorry, lady. Whatever your kid posts on social media, should never be considered “private.” If you’re worried about privacy, tell your kid to write in a diary and stash it under his mattress. Twitter and Facebook are never private, no matter how you lock down the accounts. Ever heard of screenshots? It’s 2015, parents. Wake up.

My daughter is eight years old and I know we will soon be faced with her dabbling in social media and we will have to keep a strict eye on her. That said, there’s only so much a parent can do. I’d welcome her school running this kind of program, as it could also prevent incidences of bullying. Kids have so many avenues for torturing each other with social media. A child can no longer get off the bus and escape torment from their peers. It is literally at the swipe of a screen. As far as schools implementing this kind of technology, you say privacy, I say adapting. Schools can’t pretend it’s 1987 anymore and if social media is where certain seeds are planted and allowed to grow to sometimes disastrous result, then the school needs to keep an eye on it.

Of course, not every social media post with these “key words” is about threats, bullying or plans for a future shooting. I would venture that most of them aren’t. If your son writes a post including the word “guns” and it comes up in a search by the program, once someone reviews it and sees it’s about Call of Duty and not bringing a gun to school, I’m sure it will be summarily dismissed. The purpose isn’t to get kids in trouble for innocent posts, it’s to catch a possibly tragic plan and stop it from happening. And let me remind you, if your child’s social media accounts aren’t totally locked down, anyone could see what they post. If their school wants to take a look, I am completely fine with it. As a parent, I need all the help I can get.

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