We wrote last year about a school in California, at the time the first of its kind as far as we knew, that had hired an outside firm to monitor student social media activity. Of course, if students are posting publicly about something that threatens the school or its’ students or teachers, the authorities should know about it if possible – technologically and from a cost standpoint.
Our take at the time of the announcement was that we are okay with the idea of schools monitoring a very narrow set of risks – specifically in-school cyberbullying and threats of violence. Since then, a handful of other schools have enlisted the help of similar services. Parents who are in vocal opposition most commonly cite privacy concerns.
This week, California lawmakers introduced a bill that if passed, would make illegal the school monitoring as some districts currently appear to be doing it.
Specifically, the proposed changes in California Bill AB-1442 (and our thoughts) are as follows:
“[Before starting such a program, schools will be required to] first notify pupils and their parents or guardians about the proposed program”
We have no problem with that. Parents should know.
“Gather and maintain only information [that] pertains directly to school safety or to pupil safety”
This too is fine, as we recommended last year.
“Provide a pupil with access to any information about the pupil obtained from social media, and destroy the information gathered from social media and maintained in its records”
If the service only monitors public information, we’re not sure how a student would benefit from having the school delete something inappropriate that it found.
“[The monitoring company is prohibited from] using the information for purposes other than to satisfy the terms of the contract, prohibit the 3rd party from selling or sharing the information with any person or entity”
We’re not sure of the logic here. Of course, it would be bad for a company to be selling student information, but if only public posts are monitored, anybody could access that information at their leisure.
We have no doubt that many school districts and state governments will go down this path – determining what level of monitoring is both in the students’ best interests and not a violation of their privacy. We’ll be keeping track of the developments, but above all, we believe that safe and responsible internet activity is best guided by parents, not schools or the police.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.