The roles of playground attendant and hall monitor have gone digital with the use of social media monitoring tools by more and more school districts.
In the past, social media monitoring tools were used predominantly by governments, law enforcement agencies and marketing professionals, but these tools are increasingly being adopted by school administrators as a high tech surveillance tool for tracking the social media activities of both staff and students.
One of these school districts is in Orange County Florida.
The Orange County school district recently announced that they had paid $14,000 for an annual license to Snaptrends, a social media monitoring tool used by numerous police departments.
Snaptrends uses geographical location data and keyword alerts to monitor people’s activity on social networks at the local level.
The company markets itself as a “pioneer in location-based social media discovery.”
The district plans to use Snaptrends to monitor the online activities of students and staff for anything that may potentially impact their schools, such as: criminal activities, suicidal threats or bullying.
Snaptrends was in use by Orange County Public Schools for two weeks before they announced the monitoring publicly to parents and students.
They claim Snaptrends social media software has already prevented several bad incidents, including a situation where one student posted suicidal threats online.
Doug Tripp, senior director of safety and security for Orange County Public Schools, said that Snaptrends allows the district to collect and analyze a wider amount of personal information and take action to prevent serious situations from occurring.
In addition, Mr. Tripp has stated that the school district will also be looking at people who express certain emotional states online, such as: unhappy, sad or depressed.
Responding to privacy concerns, Mr. Tripp noted that messages posted on social media are considered publicly available information that can legitimately be used by the school district.
Snaptrends will also share any relevant social media postings with local law enforcement and security workers in Orange County.
Snaptrends is already in use by Central Florida’s Intelligence Exchange, which is responsible for centralizing the sharing of information between local law enforcement agencies.
However, some parents have expressed concerns that the school is violating the privacy of students and staff by using these online snooping and surveillance tools.
Some parents feel that the school district is overreaching and has no business monitoring the activities of people once they are no longer on school property.
Other concerns include how much of people’s personal information the school district will collect and how long this information will be kept by both school officials and Snaptrends.
Legislators in California recently passed a bill that requires school districts to inform students and parents of any use of taxpayer-supported social media monitoring software and take steps to destroy sensitive personal information within a year of the student turning 18 or leaving the school district.