Citing the importance of kids’ safety, the Glendale, California Unified School District has hired a third-party social media monitoring service to begin combing through the online postings of 13,000 high school students who attend eight middle and high schools.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the district has hired local company Geo Listening, a self-described “social network monitoring service,” to raise the alarm whenever it comes across postings that, by its own metrics, might indicate a student is heading toward trouble.
The company has agreed to turn over any telltale information to school administrators. It earns $40,500 a year through its agreement with the school district.
“The whole purpose is student safety,” said Superintendent Richard Sheehan. “Basically, it just monitors for keywords where, if a student is considering harming themselves; harming someone else.”
According to Sheehan, during the program’s test period last year, school officials were alerted to a possible student suicide attempt and were able to avert it.
A parent and student quoted in the news report each said they didn’t mind the scrutiny or the new intrusion on the student’s privacy – even if kids’ inner thoughts are now open to a layer of meaning-laden interpretation most carefree teenagers never consider.
Geo Listening CEO Chris Frydrych said his company monitors only public social media postings, and that the service is effective in helping to prevent bullying, self-abuse, drug abuse, vandalism and truancy.