How do teenagers and school kids spend most of their free time? Swiping, liking and commenting on their devices, on and off school grounds. Students have near-constant access to social media and the internet, which can cause problems for school boards, administrators and educators. Between devices carried in pockets, laptops and a school’s own network of computers, there are plenty of opportunities for students to learn and do work digitally, but also to engage in inappropriate behavior.
Perhaps paradoxically, the success of the more durable networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (as well as many newer services) has been driven significantly by kids who use the networks to communicate and connect with friends. The issue with social networks arises when students use it for less savory purposes.
Bad news for school districts? Educational institutions ignoring that side of students’ internet use set themselves up for potentially serious problems in the long run. Cyberbullying, sharing information that could get students in trouble with legal authorities or expose them to criminals, and sharing inappropriate content are all common issues in educational institutions. While schools can’t monitor everything students do when not physically at school, they have a duty and a responsibility to work on prevention and assuage potential risks.The success of the more durable social networks has been driven significantly by kids who use them to communicate and connect with friends. Click To Tweet
Cyberbullying: The Very Real Risks
According to research by Pew Research Center, 71% of teenagers aged 13-17 use Facebook every day, while 52% and 41% use Instagram and Snapchat, respectively. An alarming 42% of teenagers with tech access have been cyber bullied.
Educational institutions and school boards are now faced with a pressing challenge of taking care of students and ensuring their safety both inside and outside the classroom. Unrestricted access to social media can encourage a range of risky behaviors among teens – cyberbullying has led to physical violence, self-harm, depression and even suicide. Cyber harassment – bullying using electronic forms of contact – includes posting rumors, threats, hate speech, stalking or disclosing victim’s personal information and is on the rise among teenagers. A high-profile case that comes to mind is that of Amanda Todd, a 15-year old Canadian high-school student who committed suicide in 2012 after she was manipulated into exposing herself on a webcam, then bullied severely by classmates.
Here are just some of the alarming cyberbullying statistics collected by Tulane University.
- Around 1 in 3 students experience bullying through the academic year
- Only 15% of students admit to being cyberbullied
- 61% of overweight teens have reported being bullied online
- 70% of K-12 kids have witnessed cyberbullying take place
- Only 10% of cyberbullying victims will report to an adult about getting cyberbullied
- Females are 2 times more likely to be victims of cyberbullying
- Kids are 7 times more likely to experience cyberbullying from friends than strangers
- Cyberbullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to contemplate suicide
The issues for school boards and local governments are serious too. Students who have been bullied or harassed on social media could take action against school officials, especially if no plans or systems exist to mitigate such behaviors.Students who have been bullied or harassed on social media can take action against school officials, complicating legal issues for school boards and local governments. Click To Tweet
The Unregulated Digital World of Social Networks
While many social networks have policies related to objectionable conduct and harassment, they mostly rely on the person experiencing the abuse to make reports in all but the most egregious incidents. Issues of self-harm displayed on social media are also difficult to document unless someone else makes the first move and places a report. Even more confounding is the lack of total response – while these networks will act when conduct breaks site rules, they typically lack the resources to notify family members or authorities. The recent popularity of networks that emphasize anonymity and time-limited content, like Instagram Stories or Snapchat, have made the problem even more complex.
To ensure student safety, legislation has been enacted since 2006 and the majority of US states now have harassment laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication. Educators are now required to monitor internet browsing and use social media monitoring in order to keep students safe and prevent liability issues for the school district or university.Schools are required to monitor internet browsing and use social media monitoring to keep students safe and prevent liability issues. Click To Tweet
What Can Be Done
School boards face various problems when balancing access and security with respect to students using social media. Unfettered, unrestricted access to the many networks available has plenty of serious consequences. Bradley Hospital, one of the first psychiatric facilities dedicated to children and teens, recommended steps for developing a more positive social media environment. Simply raising awareness by hosting discussions between teachers and counselors and students centered around the potential dangers of social networks is a strong start. Bradley’s advice noted that for teens, a level of empowerment – making them active in their own online protection – can be especially effective as that age group places a high value on independence.
For school boards, educators and administrators, increased visibility into potentially dangerous or harmful behavior could come from social media monitoring software and similar technological solutions. Schools that create a record of what’s posted on social media or what was entered into the text field of web searches and instant messenger clients have two major advantages – they can detect cyberbullying, harassment, self-harm and other risky behaviors in their early stages and identify problems and perpetrators more quickly and easily. With the right solution, training and approach, schools with a social media archiving program in place are in a much better position to avert potentially serious incidents before they occur.Schools with a with a social media monitoring program in place are in better position to avert serious incidents. Click To Tweet
How to Archive and Monitor Social Media
There are institutional measures that school boards can take to minimize and eliminate risky social media behavior. Most K-12 schools already archive email communication for regulatory compliance, Freedom of Information requests and legal preparedness. Adding social media archiving to the existing policy can solve multiple problems at once.
A social media archiving and monitoring solution is typically a software add-on that indexes and stores all social media communication, but can also alert administrators of potentially harmful or dangerous social media behavior. The solution can automatically search for pre-defined restricted keywords and phrases, giving school boards confidence that troublesome posts happening on school grounds or on school time are accurately detected and reported before the situation escalates. This approach to social media risk management automates much of the rote work of manual monitoring, letting educators and staff focus on the higher level tasks of addressing harmful posts.
How can schools remain informed of students’ activities in the digital age? When schools monitor internet searches and social media posts made through their networks, they protect students from harm while also limiting their own liability. In the ever-evolving digital world, social monitoring helps mitigate risky behaviors and keeps educators and administrators in a position of authority.
With the additional knowledge provided by social media monitoring, however, school staff are more apt to recognize patterns of abuse and correctly define a series of incidents as harassment instead of a one-off fight or argument gone wrong. A complete picture of a potentially dangerous situation provided by the continual monitoring of social media posts, instant messenger chats and web searches can empower administrators and educators to act sooner and with more confidence, ultimately improving student safety. When unstructured social data turns into indexed, searchable information that you can filter, include in policies, locate and easily present in court, your school will add an extra layer of protection for students and help administrators know when and how to intervene.
Jatheon is a global leader in email, social media and mobile communications archiving with 15 years of experience with on-premise archiving for regulated industries. To assist K-12 schools and universities in achieving full compliance with regulations and improving social media management, we created Jatheon CTRL, a SaaS-based add-on that’s integrated into Jatheon’s email archiving software and can be purchased separately to archive social media, mobile and/or video content.
To learn how Jatheon can help your school implement an email and social media archiving solution, contact us or schedule your personal demo.