Should the Social Media Accounts of Students Be Monitored in Order to Prevent Cyberbullying

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In todays era, technology is advancing greatly but this also means our problems are getting just as complex. Not only is technology advancing but its use is has become frequent among teenagers especially. Along with its advancement, it also has brought an alarming issue into light, cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is harassing individuals through any electronic means over social media or certain online platforms through which individuals can talk with each other. As a result of this, teenagers have been put to risk to many problems regarding their mental health. 

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Cyberbullying makes teenagers more susceptible to experiencing depression, negative thoughts and can lead to poor performance in school. Therefore, there have been many sought out solutions to solving this problem. However, the question needing to be asked here in solving this issue is whether one needs to focus on the online predators or focus on teaching teenagers how to safely use technology. In focusing on online predators, schools and parents would have to monitor the usage of media by teenagers but they might not support this idea as they might consider it invading their privacy. However, one could instead teach them how to be careful but parents and teachers would have to rely on students to keep themselves safe and use the techniques taught to them. In schools, the teacher’s job is not simply just to teach their subject but it is also to provide their students a sense of security and they can do this by providing advice on how to deal with common issues such as cyberbullying. They should also create an environment in which if the student experiencing such issues can feel comfortable in sharing these with their teacher because these issues greatly impact student life as well as their future. Therefore, in approaching this paper, I believe in the philosophy of progressivism in which the core focus of teaching is not the content itself but the students and that whatever may be taught should be meaningful. The goal of the teacher should be to prepare students for the life that waits outside of the structured school system where they will have to create their own structure. A teacher should genuinely care for the wellbeing of the student inside and outside the classroom and let the student know of this. To care for the student, the teacher should also be aware of what kind of issues the student may deal with and how to handle these issues.

Critical Reflection Cyberbullying has become to be a very significant issue in schools. Therefore, the teachers and staff can play a very important role in solving these issues and protecting students. However, in order to do this, the teachers must create an environment in which the student feels comfortable in sharing this problem and knows the teacher will take strong action. In order for this to happen, teachers must focus on the student on themselves rather than fully devoting themselves to teaching the content only. They need to show that they care for the student’s wellbeing whether it is in the classroom or outside it. As a student, whether it is media monitoring or teaching the students about safe technology usage, the student should know that this is being done for their safety. This is crucial because if students feel their teachers do not care for their safety then students will not feel the need to care either. 

Therefore, teachers need to be aware of certain issues that could be undermining the student’s ability to achieve success and know how to address this certain issue. An issue like cyberbullying could be going on with any student and teachers need to be addressing these sorts of problems with the students because it has the potential to happen with anyone at anytime. There have been various methods on how to help students who are being cyberbullied but teachers need to be aware of what are the effective ways in which they can help the student who may be experiencing cyberbullying. To deal with this issue one should have prior knowledge of how to do so and what methods to use before acting. 

 Benefits There have been many ways that have been used to help those students experiencing cyberbullying and preventing them from feeling helpless or as if nothing can be done about this situation. One of the solutions found to this issue is media monitoring. There are several companies out there that will monitor the social media accounts of students to detect early signs of cyberbullying or safety threats to individuals. An article published by CBC in March 2016 says that U.S schools such as Orange County Public Schools have already begun using a program called Snaptrends for monitoring the social media accounts of their students. As a result of this, they say they have already succeeded in saving one life by intervening when detecting threats made to her own life. In Canada itself media monitoring is also taking place. Safer School Together (SST) has compiled “ student worrisome online behavior” for 25 schools districts. The aim of this report is to warn certain potentially harmful situations to the school officials so they may prevent them. Although social media monitoring has its benefits, the usage of it is questioned however the study “Automatic monitoring of cyberbullying on social networking sites: From technologies feasibility and desirability” written by Kathleen Van Royen published in April 2014 asked this question to 179 experts of which the 50 that responded, majority of them supported this idea but with certain restrictions placed. Social media monitoring allows to “detect harmful messages, preventing these from remaining online and providing timely response” making it having the support that it did. Monitoring the accounts of the youth seems to have significant advantages especially since it can and has helped save a life. The advantage of being able to help save a life even if the individual themselves have not shared what they may be experiencing online outweighs the concerns that may be arising with monitoring such as privacy issues. 

However, the companies doing the monitoring should have the student body’s full consent and should not simply be a decision of the school only. Before the step is taken, it should also be fully tested in order to ensure effectiveness and involve the decisions of the parents. So although media monitoring does show to be possible solution, there are some steps that still need to be taken in order to make it more effective and should include the views of the teenagers as well as the parents when taking this decision.

Negatives Media monitoring is a possible solution and may proven to be effective in helping catching students who may be possible victims of cyberbullying however media monitoring primarily focuses on the predator rather than the victim. 

The author Peter Levy in his article “ Confronting Bullying” written for The Journal in May 2011 suggests that focusing on online predators and warning children about them is the wrong approach for the issue of cyberbullying. According to this study, predation is actually very unlikely to happen and therefore putting the focus on Internet predators by engaging in media monitoring is an ineffective way of protecting students. This author of this article believes that the goal should be to empower students to in fact become better digital citizens. This can be done so by teaching them vital skills such as how to deal with cyberbullying and “critically judge online information”. The article believes that schools should focus on how they would like their students to behave rather then focusing on how they should not. Another issue that arises with media monitoring is that students feel that their right to privacy is being violated. The article “ Honestly We’re Not Spying on Kids: School Surveillance of Young People’s Social Media” written by Leslie Shade and Rianka Singh in November 2016 considers ethical issues arise with media monitoring. Many of the media surveillance companies such as Digital Fly and Snaptrends often will monitor the accounts of students off-campus as well which violates their right to free speech because they could be punished for something they might have posted off school grounds. There are also parental issues in that some parents might not be supportive of this strategy because media monitoring would not just be focused on what might suggest cyberbullying but may focus on what students are posting as well. Surveillance itself can also be damaging to the young individuals in that it can “erode their trust” in their parents and school staff. The article also believes that such surveillance also undermines the value of education. Cyberbullying is an issue that requires strict prompt action in the situation when it is caught. However, cyberbullying could be possibly prevented from happening in the first place by teaching teenagers how to become better digital citizens. Although I do believe media monitoring is effective to an extent in catching the cyberbullies, it primarily focuses on catching the predator. Media monitoring also violates some of the rights of the teenagers and having surveillance companies monitoring these kid’s accounts could feel to them as if their right to privacy is being violated. Not only the kids, but also parents could also have issues that somebody else is monitoring their kid’s account and may feel more comfortable if it is they instead of somebody else. Therefore, due to the many concerns arising with monitoring the social media of students, it is wiser to tell them how to safely operate these accounts and if they come into contact with cyberbullying, what steps they should take in order to help themselves. 

Final Reflections Using the results and ideas discussed in the articles, I believe that currently we should be teaching teenagers to become better digital citizens rather than focusing on predators that hunt their victims online. Teaching teenagers to be better digital citizens is something that they can use throughout their life but with media monitoring, they will not be able to learn how to protect themselves if they face a situation in which they face cyberbullying and there is no media monitoring. They will not know how to protect themselves. In the article, “Honestly We’re Not Spying on Kids: School Surveillance of Young People’s Social Media”, media monitoring also can result in teenagers have issues with building trust on adults in their schools and communities. So not only does media monitoring damage their ability to build trust but it also does not prepare them if they are to face the situation again in the future. With the research done, I now believe that teaching students to face this situation is crucial but along with this, teachers should also create an environment in which the student can share their issue comfortably if they need to. With this perspective, it ties in with the fact that whatever that is taught should be meaningful and should prepare the student for the life that awaits them outside the highly structured system of the school where they’ll have to learn to protect themselves as well. 

Cyberbullying is a major issue especially among teenagers who are in constant contact with their phone. There have been many sought out solutions to this issue however a major one is media monitoring. Media monitoring has helped save a life but along with it are other issues such as privacy. Another way to prevent cyberbullying is to teach the student how to safely utilize the Internet. So I believe the answer to my original question, does one needs to focus on the online predators or focus on teaching teenagers how to safely use technology, is that we focus on teenagers instead of aiming our attention towards the predators. By doing this, we also prepare students for the future and that to me as a future teacher is very crucial. 

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