Children returning to school this year are more likely than ever to be given an electronic device such as a laptop or tablet. While the Children’s Internet Protection Act requires pubic schools to filter inappropriate content, some administrators want to do more to protect students. Increased rates of online bullying and teen suicide have prompted many school districts to implement surveillance software that scans students’ online activity. The software uses Natural Language Processing to scan all the words used in emails, text messages and documents stored on the Cloud. An alert is sent to administrators if words indicating self-harm or violence are detected.
One particularly dramatic example of the successful use of student surveillance comes from Wausau, Wisconsin. According to the WORLD broadcast, a student sent an email to a friend at 7:42 a.m. mentioning intentions of suicide, kicking off an alert to district officials who contacted the school at around 7:48 a.m. -just six minutes later. They found the student in the bathroom just seconds away from a suicide attempt.
WORLD reported that the surveillance tactic has raised privacy concerns; however, surveillance companies like Gaggle assure students that personal accounts remain private. Parents can also benefit from the parent portals that are offered through many of the online surveillance programs. The parent portals give parents the ability to monitor what their child is searching online.