The Fine Line Between Guardian and Stalker

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The Fine Line Between Guardian and Stalker

Postby HeatherLyke » Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:01 am

I heard a story on MPR's All Things Considered yesterday, on which they discussed how some schools are now using a software called GoGuardian as a way to help monitor students struggling with mental health issues. At first I thought this a somewhat interesting use of technology, but then I slept on it. Now, I am a bit creeped out by the idea.

Here is how it works. Schools that issue laptops or iPads to students often install a software that limits what types of sites students can use, and can decide if these sites can never be used at all or can only be used in certain locations. So, a District might opt to block access to all porn websites at home and at school, but might opt to block Netflix only at school where the streaming of longer videos would clog the WiFi. This I get. This I support.

Although, some Districts take it too far. For instance, some schools might block all websites that use the words 'oral sex', making it hard for a student to complete her research paper for Health class that is supposed to discuss just that topic. In such Districts I find that there is a grey area of what is 'right' and what is 'wrong', and whomever gets to be the decider of such things has a lot of power. Particularity with high school kids, I would rather error on the side of not blocking something, but instead teaching students in our classes how to use the Internet properly and then having serious conversations with them if/when they don't make good choices (and, if need be, even taking away the District-provided device for a period of time and letting them struggle with that loss of device for awhile).

Here is where the mental health aspect comes in. These softwares, such as Go Guardian, also enable it so that District IT staff can track all students' browser histories. They can pick one student and look at his history, or they can pick a key word (or set of key words) and search all browser histories. Ergo, they can do a search of all students' computers looking for the phrase 'best way to overdose' and it will bring up any hits where students have searched for this phrase; then, the IT staff can check any of those hits for other trends pertaining to suicidal thoughts, and should they exist they can then connect that student with a counselor. Sounds great, right? Again, this I get. This I support.

However, since Districts sell this software to parents with this mental health element in mind, it causes some concerns. One issue I have is this: if we tell parents that we are going to be tracking students for mental health red flags, does that mean that some parents with say to themselves "Well, the schools got that, so I don;t have to worry about mental health issues with my girl anymore?" The old adage is that it takes a village to raise a child, but when one part of the village says "I've got this" do the other sections of the village then look elsewhere? The other issue I have is that the tracking doesn't only allow for searching for mental health-related concerns. No, Districts can use this software to track ANYTHING. And that, is where I get really uncomfortable. At what point did we decided that Orwell's themes were good? Do we really want to be the Big Brother that took down a country?

All I can say for sure is this: if I was principal of a school with one-to-one devices, I would think long and hard about using such softwares. And, if I opted to green light their use, I would then be very careful about what boundaries I would set with how it would be used.
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Dave Pugh
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Re: The Fine Line Between Guardian and Stalker

Postby Dave Pugh » Wed Mar 30, 2016 5:44 pm

Yuck yuck yuck. Why would a school want to know the browsing history of students? Doesn't that just open a can of worms? If I could know, then can you sue me because I didn't check and do something? Should my eye doctor have a list of everything I look at? Should my dentist be able to watch me floss? OK, too much.

Also a story --- when our kids were young we decided to try an internet provider that blocked porn before it got to the house. I was working for a church and preparing something where I needed to look up lyrics to a popular song. I found that all sites that contained song lyrics were blocked. I asked the provider to open them and they refused because song lyrics could contain"bad words". You just cannot control everything.

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