Social media monitoring services stir debate

And as more news headlines feature reports of cyber bullying among students of all ages, parents and teachers may need to play a more active role in their children’s social networking practices.

“It’s unfortunate that over the last year in particular, we see more and more of these stories where kids are just being really nasty to one another online,” Barker said. “We definitely think there’s a need right now, for parents and teachers.”

Still, TrueCare helps create a dialogue between schools, parents, and children, so they can all work together and send the same message on creating safe social networking habits, he said.

“We don’t want to take this technology away from kids, because this is the way they live, communicate, and exchange information,” Barker said. “We need to find a way to educate them on the best way to go about using social networks.”

Part of that education should include how online communication differs from face-to-face communication, he said.

Barker and his team are visiting schools and talking with principals, administrators, and teachers about TrueCare in an attempt to increase parental awareness about children’s online and social networking behavior.

Barker said he hopes to get teacher feedback on how TrueCare can help educators communicate with their students and make social networks a safer environment.

Another service, GoGoStat Parental Guidance from Schakra, runs as an application on a child’s Facebook page. Parents and children define rules and criteria to be monitored on Facebook, and then exchange a security code offline to ensure that only parents monitor the child’s Facebook. The cloud-based service is free.

Once these steps are complete, Parental Guidance notifies parents about potentially harmful details in their children’s profiles, such as exposed contact information that might lead to unsafe situations. Parents receive alerts if established rules are violated, inappropriate text is posted, new friends are made, and when photos of their children are uploaded.  The Parental Notification database includes acronyms, curse words, and slang terms.

Ron Stevenson, a product Manager at Schakra, said the company envisions GoGoStat Parental Guidance as a way for parents and teachers to work together.

“With cyber bullying, most parents think their child is the victim, and they don’t always think their child might be the [one bullying],” Stevenson said. “When parents see these notifications pop up, they can tell their child’s teacher that they keep seeing certain names or things come up” and can ask the teacher if their child is having problems with people in school or is causing problems for other students.

Laura Ascione

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