Should Schools Monitor Social Media?

We don’t think so.

News is out this week that the Glendale Unified School District in California has hired a firm called Geo Listening to monitor students on social media. The service is designed to ensure student safety, but has drawn criticism over privacy concerns. We have some additional concerns.

According to Geo Listening’s website and information in the article, the company will produce a daily report for the school district which shows social media mentions by students of that district that indicate or are proof of the following:

  • Bullying
  • Cyberbullying
  • Despair
  • Hate
  • Harm
  • Crime
  • Vandalism
  • Substance Abuse
  • Truancy

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.47.59 AMRegarding the privacy concerns:

“The idea of a third-party monitor doesn’t sit well with Parry Aftab, a well-known cybersecurity expert, attorney and child advocate. She questioned whether the outside monitor arrangement complies with the Family Educational Privacy Rights Act, a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, and said schools could be opening themselves to potential liability.”

Naked Security published a post on the story yesterday, and included a poll. 65% of respondents are not in favor of schools monitoring students social media posts.

The results of the poll don’t surprise us, as we are not in favor of taking parenting responsibility out of the hands of parents. And kids’ privacy is very important to us.

In an article on Yahoo earlier this summer, Bethaney Wallace wrote:


“A student posted the following tweet, “F****** is one of those f****** words you can put anywhere in a f****** sentence and it still f****** makes sense.”

He … was expelled from school. Although full of cursing, it’s hard to argue that the tweet is incorrect. Inappropriate? Yes, but whatever happened to free speech?”

This example seems way too intrusive to us.

Were the Glendale district, or any district, monitoring a very narrow set of risks (in-school cyberbullying and violence threats only, for example) we might be more favorably disposed, but we think the thought process behind this initiative us fundamentally flawed.

We at ThirdParent believe that the most effective way to prevent, curtail or correct negative student behavior in general and cyberbullying specifically is through involved, informed parents raising their kids to know right from wrong and make good decisions. Our service has been specifically designed to give parents the tools they need to be better, more involved parents.

Please let us know if you have questions.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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