Student View

Should Schools Monitor Your Social Media?

Some administrators use technology to keep an eye on what students post. Does this protect teens or violate their rights?

YES

If I’m having a bad day, I often find it easier to post my feelings online than to talk about my issues with someone else, especially if that person is a school staff member. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Teachers and other staff members may say “how are you doing?” and be reassured by students’ bright smiles and cheerful responses. But if these teachers were to look at these students’ social media feeds, they might be surprised to see the students are actually suffering much more than they let on. That’s why I think monitoring social media can help more than it can hurt: It’s a way for schools to address problems they wouldn’t otherwise know about.

One of the biggest and most important issues facing schools is the terrifying reality of gun violence. Unfortunately, school shootings have been on the rise in recent years. Several of the perpetrators of these shootings posted their plans on social media before acting. If schools were to monitor the platforms where students post threats of gun violence, future tragedies could possibly be avoided and countless lives might be saved.

In addition to gun violence, cyberbullying is a pervasive problem in schools. This could also be curbed by monitoring social media. Not only would it alert administrators to cyberbullies, it might also prevent bullies from posting abusive or threatening messages in the first place. If cyberbullies know their social media feeds are being watched, they might be more careful about what they post, and students might no longer have to live in fear of what their peers may say to them on the internet.

People who don’t think schools should monitor social media claim that doing so would be an invasion of students’ privacy, but I think these fears are inflated. Schools that implement social media surveillance technology are not patrolling students’ accounts 24/7. They are simply alerted to keywords that suggest students might be planning to harm others or themselves. And the truth is, people surrender their privacy every time they post something online. It’s impossible to control who reads what you say on the internet, so it might as well be read by people who can keep you safe.

NO

During school hours, I give all my time and attention to school. But once classes are over, I need my privacy. I don’t want my school administrators to be reading things that are intended for my friends and family. That’s why I don’t think schools should monitor students’ social media. Teens need a balance of school time and personal time, and social media should be something that we can have for ourselves.

When schools start monitoring social media accounts, they restrict what students share and express. A lot of students turn to social media as a place to communicate their feelings. I know I’m not the only one who would feel pressure to censor what I post if I knew administrators were reading my messages. I don’t want to have to worry that every private joke or sarcastic comment I make might be misinterpreted and potentially get me in trouble.

Some schools claim that monitoring students’ social media could alert school administrators to students who are bullying others or who might even be a threat to the school. These are great goals, but I believe they’re unrealistic. The truth is, many schools already have a hard time keeping track of everyone’s official school email accounts. Most schools simply don’t have the time or the resources to monitor every student’s various social media feeds.

As a result, schools that do monitor social media often depend on algorithms to search for keywords or phrases. We all know it’s hard enough for human adults to understand the nuances of teen slang and shorthand. How could an algorithm tell the difference between a harmless joke and an actual cause for alarm?

Instead of monitoring our social media, schools should teach students to behave safely and responsibly both online and in real life. If schools taught us how to combat cyberbullying, treat each other with respect and empathy, and help a friend who is going through a rough time, they could address the root causes of many of the problems schools monitor social media for, while also allowing students to retain a degree of privacy.

Spot the Cyberbully

Whether or not your school monitors your social media, cyberbullying can be hard to detect. Can you tell which of these phones shows a bully at work?

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