How would you feel if you found out your child’s school district is paying for “social listening” of students’ social networking? That trolling their tweets, Instagrams and Facebook post is in the name of preventing cyber-bullying, harm, hate, despair, substance abuse, vandalism and truancy?
Would you feel a sigh of relief, “Thank god somebody is doing something about these kids and their mobile devices at school?”
Or would you feel horrified at the potential violation of your child’s privacy? Just maybe you feel like it’s too big brother for your taste?
Now if your child’s school had experienced a crisis involving inappropriate or malicious use of social networks by one child or group of children to disparage to harm another child, how would you feel then? Or, as has happened on too many occasions in recent years, what if a student committed suicide because of relentless cyberbullying and reputation damage done by malicious peers?
It’s all relative, right?
Recently, the Glendale school system in California contracted with a company called Geo Listening to monitor their middle and high schooers use of public postings on social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. No small change either. The cost to outsource this monitoring is $40K. The reality is that such software applications may become a trend for schools that are trying to be a step ahead of any potential problems that could arise via the social media conversations taking place during or after school.
Admittedly, I fall in the middle. I had both reactions both relief and horror. Here’s a school trying to be proactive about a modern issue in childhood: the new reality of digital playgrounds. On the other hand, such efforts may not enlist trust among students (who will immediately change all their accounts to “private” or create alias accounts), and worse, in my opinion, give a false sense of security to parents that the schools have “got this one covered.”
Parents I know either:
- Feel completely inept at managing their kids’ use of mobile devices, texting frequency, and social network apps. Many don’t’ even know the apps on their kids’ devices. Twitter, Vine, Oovoo, Kik… The apps just keep on coming. Or,
- Believe not only that their child has a good head on his or her shoulders and would never be disrespectful, but also think that the parental controls or rules they may have set at home are actually effective.
In either scenario, kids are always a step ahead of us. We just have to accept this and know how to respond.
Social media is the perfect channel for kids to swear, act tough, be inappropriate, be silly, creative, and experimental, with little oversight by parents or teachers. On the other hand, the current generation of digital natives tends to be rather pragmatic when it comes to their use of social media, unlike their millennial predecessors who sort of went hog wild. We need to have a bit of faith. My 15-year keeps reminding me of this, in fact.
What the Glendale scenario highlights for me is that no matter what the schools attempt to experiment with when it comes to the safety of their students, the teaching and role modeling of digital communication needs to come from home no matter what. And it comes down to a few things families need to think about as early as possible:
- Connection and interest in your child’s life even as they start to naturally pull away in adolescence and resist your authority
- Clear core family values
- Practice of the golden rule as a baseline behavior
- Clear expectations and family rules (age appropriate) about the care and use of technology devices and communications
Believe me the opportunities for all of these arise all the time. When my daughter impulsively announced to her twitter following that she hated me (I made her go on a planned youth retreat), that was pause for reflection and reconnection. We can only do the best we can, when we really are doing the best we can by staying in tune with our kids.
Register for my teleclass on Sept 25, 8pm: Keeping Your Daughters Safe Online