In the wake of high-profile mass shootings, school districts are increasingly turning to social media monitoring to proactively identify threats of violence or other harmful behavior among student communities. While the desire to take action in protecting students is understandable, surveilling students’ social media is unlikely to be effective and poses its own threat to school safety.
Social media monitoring software is experimental and has not been proven to be valuable in preventing incidents of harm. Rather than increasing school safety, using this technology to attempt to predict mass violence may cause lasting damage to students who are mislabeled as dangerous and subject to unnecessary scrutiny by school authorities or law enforcement. Without appropriate guidelines or accountability measures, systematic surveillance is likely to invade student privacy, stifle expression and dialogue, and disproportionately impact children from marginalized or minority backgrounds. Before allocating already limited education funds to ineffective and potentially harmful social media monitoring software, stakeholders must fully consider and safeguard against these concerns and take steps to create a school environment that is safe and supportive for all students.
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