#CyberFLASH: Will social media monitoring help keep kids safe?

typing-image-genericWill monitoring students’ social media feeds help keep them safe?

It’s a question that seems to be asked after every high school attack or student suicide, like the recent shooting in La Loche, Sask., or stabbing attack in Pickering, Ont. The high-profile deaths of B.C. teen Amanda Todd and Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons have also shone a spotlight on the issue.

Some U.S. schools are already doing it.

Orange County Public Schools — a school board in central Florida — started using a program called Snaptrends in May 2015, paying about $14,000 for a one-year contract.

Board spokesperson Shari Bobinski says the social media-monitoring software has already saved one life. “We were able to intervene in what could have been a deadly situation of a child threatening to commit suicide,” she said.

Using a set of keywords, the software picked up the threat and flagged it to the school board, which was able to get law enforcement in touch with the proper people at the child’s home, Bobinski explained.

“You can’t argue with the importance of keeping our students and staff safe,” she said.

Here in Canada, the issue of school safety was most recently back in the spotlight last month after a stabbing attack at Dunbarton High School in Pickering, Ont. A female student is alleged to have entered the high school on the morning of Feb. 23 armed with two knives, attacking both staff and students. Nine people were injured, including three teachers.

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