We recently wrote about the rights and wrongs of parents snooping on their children online. But how do you feel about their Schools snooping on them too? It may shock you to read that a high school in California decided to spend over $40,000 on hiring a private firm to police students’ social media accounts. Since then debate has been raging worldwide regarding both the ethics and usefulness of this.
On the one hand, online bullying is reaching an all-time high thanks to the plethora of social networks and technological devices used by children. On the other hand, the right to privacy is respected by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many believe it is one of the pillars of society.
The issue is wrought with contradictory views. We have set out what we consider the main pros and cons of allowing schools to police their students’ social media accounts.
- Most schools place a strong emphasis on combatting face-to-face bullying, but cyber bullying is much more difficult to control. Too many teens are losing their lives to this issue and if parents lack the knowledge to adequately control their children’s input on social media, schools should step in to stop tragedies from occurring.
- Children who are being bullied can often feel embarrassed to report the issue to parents or teachers. They often internalise feelings like guilt or shame. By keeping an eye out for what is being said on the Internet and who is being bullied, schools can speak out for children who are too afraid to do so. Other children don’t report bullying because they fear they will lose privileges to their technological devices or be forced by their parents to close their social network accounts. A third group of bullied kids/teens fail to inform their parents or teachers will not respond effectively. In the US, a poll of nearly 12,000 students revealed that only one third of students seriously affected by bullying felt that telling an adult about the situation would actually make things better; almost the same percentage of kids said that disclosure would actually worsen the situation!
- Many parents don’t know enough about social media, controls and filters, to effectively control their children’s use of the most popular social networks. Moreover, kids aren’t just using popular social media sites like Facebook or Twitter; they are also active on more obscure sites like Snapchat, which are less known by parents and therefore less likely to be monitored.
- The main responsibility for controlling social media use belongs to parents, not schools.
- Allowing schools to police students opens the floodgates to various legal conundrums. For instance, if a school finds sensitive information about a student, do they have an obligation to disclose it? If they decide not to, should they be held responsible if negative consequences ensue from their decision to abstain from becoming involved?
- Schools should worry less about policing and more about prevention. They should work hard to foster no-tolerance policies for bullies and encourage immediate reporting by students who are either being bullied or who know of someone who is suffering this fate. More emphasis should also be placed on teaching e-safety at school, so that kids know how to use privacy settings and do not fall into the trap of posting sensitive information or photographs of themselves on social media sites.
- The emphasis should be taken away from policing and placed on awareness. Parents and teachers should learn how to react when a child tells them they are being bullied. If children thought adults could actually help them, they would not be so hesitant about telling them the truth.
This is a contentious topic. Please feel free to add your thoughts on the topic by adding a comment to this blog?