Heading into the 2015-2016 school year, Orange County's school board is to start monitoring the social media posts of all students at its public schools using the tracking software Snaptrends. The software will be programmed to scan posts for keywords that might signal cyberbullying among students, intent of suicide, or violent threats.
Local Orlando news station WESH spoke with Joie Cadle of the Orlando County School Board. "If [students] are sitting in a classroom and they are tweeting because they are mad at their teacher or their girlfriend for whatever reason, and there are some threatening words there, we need to be able to know if it is credible," she said.
The decision has sparked debate among parents, some who feel the monitoring is an intrusion on the privacy of their children, and others who feel the monitoring adds a layer of safety in an era of school shootings and public bullying that can happen online.
"My privacy issues aren't with the fact that they're just out there looking at it, because frankly with social media it's not private. But what are they going to do with the information they look at? That's what we're concerned about," said Cindy Hamilton, co-founder of Opt Out Orlando.
Snaptrends is location-based tracking software, which means that it gathers any posts uploaded to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, for example, within a given radius. While some critics of the software have said that it would be the equivalent of having school administrators sitting at the Sunday dinner table, the app is actually only tracking social media posts that occur during the school day, or whenever students are anywhere near campus. If a student writes, "Looking forward to KILLING the Wildcats at the homecoming game this Friday," it will likely be flagged. Only posts with trigger words will be gathered and sent to administrators for review.
This video demonstrates how it works:
What do you think? Should this loss of privacy be a concern for parents, or does the use of tracking software at schools create safer communities?