Are Your Internet Safety Standards Proactive or Reactive?

I had a conversation last week with an educator about a school district that took a firm stance on not having the need to monitor student email. The district has what it believes to be an ironclad archiving product and only permits student email within the confines of the district.

I was asked, “Is simply having an archive enough?” Absolutely. Go ahead and archive your email without any level of monitoring, review or filtering, assuming that your vendor stands by its product as CIPA compliant.

If you find your district sharing this sentiment, ask yourself―or a colleague or an administrator―how comfortable are you with being reactive rather than proactive in protecting your students?

Saying that you don’t need to monitor student email—whether or not you prohibit email messages from being sent outside of your school or district—more or less says you really don’t feel like doing the work to protect your students.

Email monitoring helps you manage risk, including the improprieties of students and co-workers both inside and outside of school. Content that is flagged should also be blocked and not sent to the student and just marked as potentially harmful. The message should be reviewed; followed by a great opportunity to instruct and help students learn true digital citizenship.

Bullying and inappropriate conduct has been going on since time immemorial. The content hasn’t changed much, but the message of delivery is completely different. Whispers and notes from when we were in school are often now replaced with email. There’s no more he said, she said.

Sure, your archive will help prove that one student is harassing another one, but how does pulling archived email help prevent the incident or enable intervention. How does a record of important messages leading up to that incident help you be proactive? It doesn’t.

Sitting in your archive is all of the information that provides ample and valuable opportunities to help instruct and educate students in making correct, thoughtful, considerate and responsible decisions. Instead, all you end up with is a reactive response.

Of course, at some point every safety net has edges. You’re never going to be able to protect the entire universe of students, but you can shape the citizens of world. Email monitoring gives you that opportunity.