Why Spying is Not the Same as Monitoring

Schools Monitoring Social Media

Fixer Sophie Thorne, from Swindon, experienced abuse via text messaging and social media. Now she is raising awareness of cyber-bullying to prevent others enduring similar experiences.

There has been a good deal of media buzz lately surrounding new questions about social media monitoring in our nation’s schools. More and more K-12 schools are monitoring their students’ social media behavior as a way to curb rising rates of cyberbullying and the unfortunate tween and teen suicides that often result from extreme cases of online bullying.

For example, according to a recent article on NPR.org, the Glendale Unified School District is spending $40,000 to have a third party company monitor social media use among its students. “School officials want to know if the kids are posting suicidal thoughts, obscenities or comments intended to bully fellow students,” the article states.

In the article, Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center questions new school programs that monitor students’ social media behavior, unbeknownst to them, as a way to stop cyberbullying and other dangerous behaviors before they start. Patchin said he doesn’t recommend schools spying – monitoring kids without their knowledge — “because they’ll find something they have to confront their kids about,” he told NPR, “and is your kid ever going to trust you again?'”

Another article at DigitalTrends.com addresses a similar sentiment: “The Internet is full of nightmares for parents and educators worried about safety,” the article says. “And it probably always will be. But does that make it appropriate for a school district to hire professional social media snoops to digitally tail their students’ moves online?”

While the issue of monitoring can be complex, the team at MamaBear Family Safety App ultimately commends the Glendale Unified School District and other school districts nationwide for being proactive in dealing with a very real, very concerning threat to kids’ safety: cyberbullying. While ultimately monitoring is first and foremost a parent’s responsibility, the district can be a good role model by demonstrating to parents the importance of monitoring social media, and their intentions to protect children are good.

However, parents shouldn’t be complacent by thinking that schools alone should be paying attention to students’ online behavior. Parents must do their part by monitoring their children’s online behavior for signs of cyberbullying and self-destructive behaviors with a family safety app like MamaBear.

Spying or Monitoring?

It’s important for families to build trust among each other. Parents ultimately make decisions to protect their children, but also should respect their children’s need for their own space. And kids should respect their parents’ choice to take safety precautions. So we think spying on our kids is not in a parent’s or child’s best interests.

There is a clear difference between spying and monitoring.

Spying is secretive. It happens without a person’s knowledge. It’s a dirty trick, a way to gather information behind someone’s back.

Using a family safety app like MamaBear provides a way to monitor a child’s behavior. Monitoring, unlike spying, happens with the child’s knowledge and opportunity for more relevant communication.

Keep it Out in the Open

Our recommendation is to not put a monitoring app on your child’s phone without their knowledge or benefit to them. It’s not a good idea to spy or snoop on a child’s phone, just as it’s not a good idea to put a secret video camera in their bedrooms or read their diaries. Instead, openly monitor and talk to your child about why you’re monitoring his or her location and social media behavior.

There are good reasons to use a family safety app like MamaBear, and those reasons can be shared with your children. In many cases, parents don’t trust predators and bullies, and being alerted to the suspicious behavior of others can help you warn them about the consequences their behavior may indicate.

Ultimately, monitoring – whether by schools or by parents — is about safety. While some children might not like the idea of being monitored, others take comfort in knowing that someone has his or her back if something like cyberbullying or interaction with an online predator puts them at risk.

The MamaBear app helps parents around the world worry less about their children. Download the app today for iPhone devices here and Android devices here.

Image Credit: Fixers