While much of the population now spends their time on social media posting pictures of their kids, pets and food and posting the funny quip their toddler babbled that morning, schools administrators are turning to social media for safety purposes.
With the implementation of technology and social media to almost every aspect of our lives, it makes sense that those charged with solving a deadly problem, how to keep students safe in a world where school shootings occur daily, would turn to a now familiar staple to see if they can find their solutions there. And, some have. But, in turning to social media for a solution, they are inviting new sets of problems.
As with everything, there are considerations, both good and bad, that should be taken into account before using social media as a security device.
Social media monitoring can alert administrators to potential threats:
Many schools are hiring social media monitoring companies to track what their students are saying on the internet. They can set parameters such as words to look for and particular areas to monitor. The monitor will not read individual posts but will simply alert administrators to disturbing trends, such as a particular student using the words kill or bomb too many times.
It can prevent other events, such as suicides:
It seems those using the services have seen success and there have been reports of schools preventing suicides, drug activity and sales and staying on top of dangerous situations at sporting events.
Given the tendency of attackers to lay out their plans and the fact that most students have a strong social media presence, these types of monitoring services can be a valuable safety tool.
Social media can keep families informed
If parents know where to look, by turning to social media they can stay on top of emerging situations at schools or sporting events. If there is a threat, administrators can quickly update mass amounts of people by posting a quick message to the school’s Facebook page. Parents can look there and see, if any, the next steps they should take.
On the other hand, new technology always comes with new worries.
Social media can also lead to misinformation
If parents are turning to social media and are looking at the WRONG sources, misinformation can occur and cause dangerous misunderstandings. If parents are going to be depending on the internet or social media to get information on their students, they need to be educated on which sites to trust and which they shouldn’t. They should be warned not to trust information posted by students unless it is verified on the School’s official page or even the local Sheriff’s office page.
Social Media monitoring can seem like an invasion of privacy and could violate privacy acts
Students and parents may both feel that school’s digging into their personal social media accounts is an invasion of privacy no matter the situation or parameters surrounding the search.
This monitoring could also open up schools to privacy violations.
The software isn’t perfect and misunderstandings can occur
As with any new technology, there are still kinks to be worked out when it comes to social media monitoring, and when mistakes can mean false arrests, some may not want to take that risk.
This threat became too real for a student from Tuscon in January when their birthday post was misinterpreted as a threat. Because of the “threat,” law enforcement was placed on the campus.
Every new security measure is going to come with its own set of perks and problems. Using social media for safety is a choice administrators must make, and the choice should be made with the feedback of the faculty, parents and students in mind.