Students in California’s Glendale Unified School District: Big Brother is watching. In this case, Big Brother is Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based Geo Listening, which is being paid $40,500 by the school district to monitor public posts on Facebook and other social networks by students.
CBS Los Angeles reported on the arrangement, with Superintendent Richard Sheehan saying that 13,000 students at eight Glendale middle and high schools were being monitored, and adding:
The whole purpose is student safety. Basically, it just monitors for keywords where if a student is considering harming themselves, harming someone else.
We do monitor on- and off-campus, but we do pay attention during school hours. We do pay more attention to the school computers.
Citing an example where the monitoring paid off, and a student expressing suicidal thoughts received help, Sheehan told CBS Los Angeles:
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.
Geo Listening CEO Chris Frydrych told CBS Los Angeles:
We have provided information to school districts, which has led to numerous successful interventions on behalf of students that intended self-harm, suicide, bullying, truancy, substance abuse, and vandalism. We monitor only public posts to social networks. We do not monitor privatized pages, SMS, MMS, email, phone calls, voicemails.
And Felicia Johnson, mother of Hoover High School student Elijah Augustine, is in favor of the program, telling CBS Los Angeles:
If there was a red flag, if he’s talking about stress at school or he can’t take it anymore, if I won’t be able to deal with it, I would want somebody to come in.
Readers: What are your thoughts on the Glendale Unified School District’s use of social media monitoring services from Geo Listening?