Schools Are Now Paying Corporations to Spy on Teens’ Social Media Activity

Hope the spies are into Selena Gomez lyrics.

Better lock those tweets. (Photo: Getty)
Better lock those tweets. (Photo: Getty)

Teens can be major dickheads, and we don’t envy the parents and teachers who are expected to wrangle them into becoming normal human beings.

But judging by a new trend chronicled in the New York Times, some school administrators are taking their responsibilities a little too far. Some school districts are now paying private contractors to monitor students’ activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. 

Sounds like a great way to get all the students in your school to hate and distrust the entire faculty and staff.

And the spies are being paid a ton. One school in Glendale, Calif., is paying the company Geo Listening $40,500 to monitor social media posts, the Times reports, and the company expects to have 3,000 schools signed up by the end of the year.

It’s not like Geo Listening and its competitors have special access to social media, either–they can’t look at posts that aren’t public. Geo Listening’s CEO says the company owes its efforts to “a sprinkling of technology and a whole lot of human capital.” So that’s forty grand to sit around and check the statuses of the dozen or so sophomores who were too dumb to lock their tweets. Maybe we should look into a career change.

Predictably, the students being monitored are figuring out how to outsmart the system,. At least they think they are:

“Students mocked the effort on Twitter, saying officials at G.U.S.D., the Glendale Unified School District, would not ‘even understand what I tweet most of the time, they should hire a high school slang analyst #shoutout2GUSD.”'”

We can’t believe teens are still saying shoutout.

Glendale started the monitoring after a spate of teen suicides, the Times reports. The article also points to other issues that have arisen due to teen cyberbullying. But the lines are still blurred as far as where schools can or should step in.

In September, a Nevada court sided with school officials who suspended a student for threatening to shoot classmates on MySpace, for example. But courts are surprisingly not down with administrators attempting to shame female students for expressing their sexuality online. The Times points to two recent cases where female students’ freedom of speech was protected when schools tried to punish them for posting racy pictures online.

We’re guessing schools are far from getting to the bottom of this ethical quandary, but students aren’t taking it lying down. One student tweeted, “We should be monitoring gusd [the school] instead,” after an instructor was arrested and charged with sexual abuse, the Times reports.

Schools Are Now Paying Corporations to Spy on Teens’ Social Media Activity