Saturday, November 9, 2013

Monitoring Social Media?

(CNN) -- Just as parents are grappling with how to keep their kids safe on social media, schools are increasingly confronting a controversial question: Should they do more to monitor students' online interactions off-campus to protect them from dangers such as bullying, drug use, violence and suicide?

This summer, the Glendale school district in suburban Los Angeles captured headlines with its decision to pay a tech firm $40,500 to monitor what middle and high school students post publicly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

The school district went with the firm Geo Listening after a pilot program with the company last spring helped a student who was talking on social media about "ending his life," company CEO Chris Frydrych told CNN's Michael Martinez in September.

"We were able to save a life," said Richard Sheehan, the Glendale superintendent, adding that two students in the school district had committed suicide the past two years.

"It's just another avenue to open up a dialogue with parents about safety," he said.

The Glendale school district is not alone. David Jones, president of the firm Safe Outlook Corporation, said two school districts and three schools pay, on average, between $4,000 to $9,000 per year for one of his technology products called CompuGuardian and that he expects the number of schools participating to go up. (Jones said he was not at liberty to reveal which schools work with his company.)

Parents, beware of bullying on sites you've never seen 

Cracking down on bullying  

His product gives schools access to, among other things, reporting tools that allow users to search key words connected to cyberbullying and drug use, and to see whether students are researching topics about dangers such as school violence.

"You can identify a student, and you can jump into their activity logs and see exactly what they've typed, exactly where they've gone, exactly what they've done, and it gives you some history that you can go back to that child and use some disciplinary action," Jones said. "You can bring in the parent and say, 'Hey, look, this is what your child's doing. You need to talk to them about it.' "

Florida suicide sparks questions for schools 

The issue of just what kids may be doing to each other online gained even more attention after a 12-year-old Florida girl, Rebecca Sedwick, who was repeatedly cyberbullied, jumped to her death in September.

Two girls, ages 12 and 14, were arrested last month and charged with aggravated stalking, accused of sending Sedwick messages such as "Why aren't you dead?" and "Wait a minute, why are you still alive?"

Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said the school was aware of on-campus bullying of Sedwick and dealt with it by separating the students and putting them in different classes, but it was not aware of the off-campus bullying -- online -- that was taking place.

Under a Florida law that went into effect in July (PDF), before Sedwick's death, if parents or students notify a school about suspected bullying off-campus, the school has the authority to look at a student's Facebook posts and e-mails, according to Blanton.

"The key to everything is, we have to be notified ... because there is no way we could monitor all the Facebook accounts and e-mail accounts and tweets and Twitters and all that," Blanton said. "We have 2.8 million students, but if it's reported, our teachers, our principals, our school resource officers are receiving extensive training and acting immediately on that."

"A gray area that could ... lead to a lot of litigation"

Blanton said school administrators are talking, especially after the Sedwick case, about what more they can do in terms of monitoring kids' social media but said that besides the logistics of keeping tabs on millions of students, there are big legal questions about a student's privacy rights.
    
Where are your kids talking?  Where are your kids talking?  

"I think that's the biggest issue you're wrestling with when you start intercepting someone's messages," Blanton said. "Should I intercept your messages based on certain words? You're really getting into a gray area that could potentially lead to a lot of litigation."  More to read @

http://www.cnn.com/schools-of-thought-social-media-monitoring-students