The Importance of Social Media in Keeping Schools Secure
Social media has become a large part of our daily lives. Research shows that we spend nearly 2.5 hours on social networks and social messaging every day1. About 69% of U.S. adults use at least one social media site, and the average American Internet user has more than 7 social media accounts.
Anyone under the age of 25 is a “digital native”, meaning they have grown up with the Internet in their lives. For that group, social media use is much higher than it is for adults. According to Pew Research data, 45% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,” and 44% say they go online several times a day. Roughly half (51%) of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, followed by YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (and the lesser-known channels) are used in a multitude of ways. Users can share vacation photos or political views, find others with similar hobbies or interests, or follow individuals and brands of interest. They can also use the networks to communicate their personal points of view and plans – and threats – to whoever is listening.
In recent years, schools have been the targets of social media threats. According to the report, Violent Threats and Incidents in Schools by the Educators School Safety Network, there were more than 3,380 threats of violence in K-12 schools in the 2017-2018 school year, a 62-percent increase over 2016-2017. Social media was the most common method of delivery.
Sometimes, social media threats turn out to be baseless. For example, five Alliance High School freshmen were charged with making false threats to their school after openly discussing plans to carry out a shooting on social media. The students later told investigators that the conversations were meant as “a joke” and they had no plans to hurt anyone.
Other times, however, social media threats are the beginning of an actual plan for violence. There have been numerous incidents where it was discovered that the perpetrator had posted disturbing or violent messages on social media that should have been red flags.
How should school officials handle social media threats?
First, school administration should create and communicate social media usage guidelines for when students are on campus and at home, with education about what kinds of language, images and posts constitute a threat.
Next, students should be taught to communicate any school threat they see or hear about to school administration, no matter whether they believe the threat is legitimate or not.
Finally, technology can play a vital role in responding to social media threats. For example, a cloud-based visitor management system can help you keep known threat actors out of your facility.
For example, if a student or other person makes a credible threat, his/her information can be added to a custom Watch List within the visitor management system. If a known person on a Watch List attempts to enter your school grounds using their credentials, the system can immediately and silently alert school security or administration to take immediate action, such as locking down the school and alerting police departments and first responders.
If a school is using perimeter cameras with facial recognition capabilities, these cameras can be integrated with a cloud-based visitor management system to identify when a known person on a Watch List is near the perimeter of the campus. When this occurs, the system can send alerts to administrators and security officers so that they can take any needed precautions.
The proliferation of social media usage into our lives has added a new dimension into securing schools. Technology is one important tool to add to your social media and school security strategy to keep students, teachers and staff safe.
Learn more about the SILVERSHIELD Visitor Management System.
1 Source: Market Research Company Global Web Index
Robin Baker oversees the design and development of SilverShield, a cloud-based Visitor & Emergency Management System, and was also instrumental in ARMS, an anti-piracy security application for the safety of ships and crews at sea. In addition, Robin was also the founder of Learning Today, now known as iReady. Robin works with Schools, as well as Security and Software Development Teams internationally to improve the safety and security of schools today. American Heritage School of Plantation and Boca/Delray has adopted SilverShield and can speak about its effectiveness on their campus as well.
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