SYDNEY, Aug. 12 (UPI) — Australian schools say they are using Internet monitoring companies to read what students are saying on social networking sites.
The typical service used by schools looks at publicly available material posted on sites such as Facebook to monitor the use of the social media sites by students, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Friday.
Anonymous postings on social networking sites are often a source of cyber-bullying, school officials say.
“We know it’s become pretty much the essential way of communicating for this generation of students and we understand it’s a big part of their lives” Frances Booth of Ascham, a private school using the monitoring companies, said. “But we’re also aware of the dangers that can come from unrestrained use.”
Cameron Murphy, the president of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, called the monitoring practices an “outrageous invasion” of students’ privacy.
“Just because students may discuss things about school over the phone at night, it wouldn’t be appropriate or lawful for a school to tap someone’s phone and make decisions about them on that basis,” Murphy said. “Just because it happens to be a social networking site, it shouldn’t be any different.”
But James Griffin of SR7, a company that offers monitoring services, said schools must act to protect their students.
“Social media and cyber-bullying is simply an issue of the modern day that schools have to acknowledge and understand they can do something about,” he said.