Preventing Violence at Schools with Mobile App

Can Social Media Control and Monitoring Stop School Shooting?

Every time we find out about another tragedy happened at schools, be it a suicide of a student or shooting, the first question we desperately ask is, “Why didn’t anyone see alarm signals in students’ behavior?” Some experts claim that there is a way to do so: monitoring teenagers’ activity on mobile apps and popular social platforms.

After Parkland shooting in 2018, one of the largest mass murders in the history of school shooting, more than a hundred institutions hired monitoring companies to identify tragedies before they happen. Schools all over the country continue to do so. In addition to this, strict weapon insurance and modern technologies of face identification have been purchased by schools as well. However, there are no proofs that the companies are effective and work in a proper way.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the effectiveness of such methods is not something we can rely on. According to the materials obtained through the contract reviews, there are no direct connections between monitoring and prevented violence. At the same time, a lot of innocent students get into troubles. And it goes even without discussing that their right for privacy suffers significantly.

The problem is that monitoring programs use a primitive analyzing method. They never take people, who stand behind the posts, into account. Instead, the bulks of posts are reviewed automatically for keywords and phrases. Typically, programs check the geographic location of users to find out whether posts can be flagged as dangerous.

As a rule, schools receive about 3-6 alerts per day, most of which are just regular waggery. In 2013, A. Yousefi was expelled from college for posting a tweet that he will “chop the teacher’s throat,” which was a local joke in the circle of his peers. Rarely the companies are capable of detecting something serious, but in some cases harmless jokes become a reason for an expel.

When the incident at Parkland happened, the shooter posted a video on YouTube, informing that he is about to commit a mass murder. This was a real danger with serious consequences and only watchful users paid attention to it, reporting the case to FBI.

The other companies pay attention to particular people and groups, when launching their monitoring programs. They also analyze online behavior and dialogues young people have in specific Internet communities. In some cases, this type of monitoring provides a wider picture of social tendencies in the modern community of youngsters, still the main problems remain. First, how is it possible to know if a real threat was prevented? It is very hard to measure something that has never occurred in the reality. Second, specific rules of confidentiality and privacy should be followed. When they are, the rights of the monitoring companies decrease to minimum. As it becomes obvious, contradictions are serious.

Some students have been accused of being a dab hand with weapons, the others were blamed for having threatening language, and even for holding too much dollars on their Instagram photos. Sometimes, such things are enough for officials to suggest that students are gang-members or potential killers. Deciding the parameters here is almost impossible.

Indeed, protection of children is a natural desire of the adult people. The level of responsibility and unpredictable danger is incredibly high. At the same time, we believe that the external provisions cannot become effective without internal changes. Forced restrictions and limitations bring results rarely. Maybe, schools and families should pay more attention to engaging with young adults, who are having hard times as college students.