Students within the Glendale Unified School District will have to start being extra careful about what they post online, as the California district has hired an outside company to monitor pupils’ social media posts.
The district hired Geo Listening to analyze what students post on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and look for evidence of cyberbullying, crime, drug-use and suicidal thoughts, according the Glendale News Press. The hope is that after being made aware of such posts, district officials will be able to intervene in order to prevent students from engaging in illegal or harmful activity.
“The whole purpose is student safety,” district superintendent Richard Sheehan told CBS Los Angeles. “Basically, it just monitors for keywords where if a student is considering harming themselves, harming someone else.”
While the program was being piloted last year, it allowed officials to intervene with a suicidal student.
“The administrator was contacted at the school site. Then we made contact with the student, the student’s family and we got them the appropriate help,” Sheehan told the outlet.
The program tracks the social media habits of about 13,000 high school and middle school students, according to the Glendale News Press. However, some parents and students feel that the program is an invasion of privacy.
“I think it’s a bad idea because everybody deserves their privacy,” student Matilda Sinany told NBC Los Angeles.
But according to the company, officials only monitor public social media posts.
"All of the individual posts we monitor on social media networks are already made public by the students themselves. Therefore, no privacy is violated," the company told ABC Los Angeles.
The program was instituted last year after a student from the district’s high school committed suicide, per the outlet. His suicide was reportedly partially attributable to cyberbullying.