Schools in Florida are renewing a program that monitors their students’ social media activity for criminal or threatening behavior, although it has caused some controversy since its adoption last year.
The school system in Orange County, where Orlando is located, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that the program, which partners the school system with local police departments, has been successful in protecting students’ safety, saying that it led to 12 police investigations in the past year. The school district says it will pay about $18,000 annually for SnapTrends, the monitoring software used to check students’ activity. It’s the same software used by police in Racine, Wis., to track criminal activity and joins a slew of similar social media monitoring software used by law enforcement to keep an eye on the community.
SnapTrends collects data from public posts on students’ social media accounts by scanning for keywords that signify cases of cyberbullying, suicide threats, or criminal activity. School security staff then comb through flagged posts and alert police when they see fit. Research suggests that 23 percent of children and teens have been cyberbullied. Studies connecting social media and suicide have not shown definitive results, but there has been research that suggests that cyberbullying leads to suicide ideation more than traditional bullying.