At-Risk Social Networks

It is Spring Break! Unfortunately, as a Technology Administrator for a High-School, my job does not stop.

One of the interesting things about my job though is that I get to see recent studies and headlines “in the flesh.” Here is an example:

Over the past few days, more than 100 Emails have been flagged by our content compliance system within Google Apps (the program we use for student email accounts). As the Google Apps Admin, I was copied on all of the messages (which flooded my recently-cleaned inbox). When I dived in to figure out what was going on, I saw that they were all from the same student via a linked Facebook account. First of all, I didnt really understand why  our students would link a Facebook account to their school email, but with a little research I was able to figure it out.

Google Chrome is the culprit! By using Chrome Web-Apps, our students can link a facebook account to Chrome on the school computers. This allows them to bypass the school firewalls. Awesome! Another service I have to remove from our Apps accounts (I just recently suspended Google+ as well since our students were playing games instead of doing work).

The real problem for students though is that we content manage all of their email communication and they were informed of that. Our content compliance filters are not set to find Facebook emails (although that might be a good idea), and instead are focused on threatening and vulgar language. This particular student has been on Facebook bullying other students and organizing fights.

This is something that we really need to watch, especially with our population. One out of every two students at our school was suspended from school in the past year! We need to make sure that their online presence does not allow them to increase hostility.

This set of emails really struck me, especially with the recent surveys from Pew Internet…

Social networking site usage is most popular with those ages 18-49, those with some college education, and those with a household income of less than $30,000 per year.(link)

Pew’s research seems to be exactly in line with our student population. Since my school is High-Poverty with a large population of At-Risk Students, it make sense that the majority of our students are very engaged in social media.

I am happy that our content compliance did a great job of flagging these emails, but we need to make sure that we teach our students proper etiquette!I cannot wait until we roll out our new NETS-S articulation and ensure that all of our students are properly trained in internet safety.

Unfortunately for this student, her lack of knowledge is not an excuse, and it will probably lead to her suspension.

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