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Our new reality: Social media monitoring in school

Is it our responsibility to monitor social media sites to help protect students from the dangers of bullying, drug use, violence, and suicide?

social-media-monitoringAs principal of Decatur Middle School, it is my goal to make sure that all of our students’ academic needs are met throughout the school year. However, as instances of bullying continue to plague students throughout the country, questions of whether we as principals and administrators should do more to monitor students’ online interactions come to the forefront. Is it our responsibility to monitor social media sites to help protect students from the dangers of bullying, drug use, violence, and suicide?

My colleagues and I continue to strive to strike the proper balance between ensuring students’ safety while maintaining their desired privacy. But with mobile phones more prevalent and social media use on Twitter and Facebook at an all-time high, it’s become increasingly more difficult to monitor effectively.

It’s equally as worrisome when you look at the statistics. Findings from The Cyber Bullying Research Center tell us that “70 percent of students hide their online behavior from parents and/or school administrators.” The research also brings to light the fact that “over 50 percent of students are bullied up to 20 percent of their time on social media and more than 50 percent do not tell anyone of the bullying they experience.”

So it’s no wonder that state laws are becoming more stringent on schools, placing an increased responsibility on us to monitor students’ social media accounts, and take preventative measures against threats of school violence or cyberbullying. Three states currently have laws about bullying and subsequent school responsibilities/liabilities, with New York’s law being the most stringent. It is written such that schools are held accountable for incidents stemming from bullying that could have been prevented with prior knowledge. Other state laws, such as ours in Indiana, require that school districts submit “contingency plans” that illustrate each schools effort to combat the issue of bullying.

(Next page: Software which identifies potential threats)

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