A pilot program that kept track of all social media activity of students at three schools in Southern California's Glendale Unified School School District is set to roll out to the rest of the district this fall. Glendale administrators were so pleased with the pilot results that, according to Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan, kids in all of its middle and high schools will now fall under its auspices.
The program will cost at least $40,000 a year and isoperated by Geo Listening out of Hermosa Beach, which will eavesdrop on public social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The goal of the monitoring is to catch instances of bullying or even depression before they get out of control and cause actual physical or emotional harm to the students.
Although Sheehan thinks that the program is a net positive, it's unsurprising that many of the students affected don't feel the same way. Matilda Sinany of Crescenta Valley High School believes that the district is violating the students' right to privacy.
The 14-year-old Sinany is among the students at Crescenta Valley High School who don't want school officials eavesdropping on their Internet activities.
Some parents support the idea.
"I think it can nip it in the bud if someone is being attacked or something negative is being said about a student," Felicia Collins said.
Some students started a Facebook page called Remove Your School – instructing students to remove the name of their school so their posts can't be tracked.
However, even for those who oppose the program, it might have some valuable lessons to teach. After all, getting out from under the district's all-seeing eye is as easy as setting your social media profile to private, as another Glendale student Michael Aguiar points out.
Increasingly, a lack of understanding about the public nature of the internet has come back to haunt many, especially when time came for them to apply to colleges, look for employment or even date. Kids who absorb this message today and take it to heart will have fewer similar struggles down the road.
According Angie Crouch and John Simerson of NBC4, when reached for comment Geo Listening declined to speak on camera but said that the issue of student privacy in moot in this case, because GL only monitors and reports on information already being made public.