Recently we participated in a “Student Safety” webinar with Gaggle, and were frankly astounded at the online conversation surrounding cyberbullying, drugs, sex, and self-harm amongst school-aged children that Gaggle Student Safety Representatives identify, report, and prevent from escalating into more serious issues (they review content in school-issued email and online collaboration tools). We thought it was important to share this information with you.
Warning: Some of the language you are about to read may be shocking.
Our children’s safety has always been a top priority. But waiting until the next day to address concerns around cyberbullying, self-harm, violence, drug use and other potentially harmful, and even deadly, situations isn’t an option.
In the 2014-2015 school year, Gaggle Student Safety Representatives reviewed more than 10 million items and reported hundreds of thousands of incidents to schools or law enforcement. Our team reviews content 24/7 in school-issued email and online collaboration tools such as Google Apps for Education and Office 365.
We’re looking for:
Content that should be brought to a school administrator’s attention, including cyberbullying, pornographic images, graphic, violent or sexually related stories, or files not associated with a class assignment.
Situations where a student uses minor profanity, insulting language or attempts to send provocative, but not pornographic, images.
Immediate threats to students, including but not limited to violence, suicide, rape or harmful family situations.
Unfortunately, instances of drugs, sex, violence and self-harm are far too common of an occurrence.
We’ve been able to catch numerous drug deals, which, in many cases, were to take place during school hours and on school grounds. These are the most common blocked words that led to drug-related emergency notifications throughout the 2014-15 school year:
Sexting in all forms of online communication remains very prevalent among students using email, Google Drive, texting and more. What’s really shocking is the amount of junior high students and even younger children who participate in sexting. We’ve seen students as young as fourth grade setting up accounts on pornographic or adult-dating sites. In addition to our blocked words list, our Anti-Pornography Scanner catches sexual images that are reviewed by our Student Safety Representatives. These are the most common blocked words that led to emergency notifications:
Gaggle Safety Management works closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)—first notifying a district’s emergency contacts then filing a report on NCMEC’s CyberTipline—when we identify inappropriate images sent to a student or when they appear to involve a student. NCMEC will review Gaggle’s report and contact the appropriate law enforcement entity to handle the issue, if necessary.
We also see a lot of conversations around violence in email, instant messaging, and even shared documents. We also find a large amount of violent activity via email notifications from students who signup for social networks with their school email address. For example, we’ve seen a disturbing number of Facebook groups with violent content. Here are the most common blocked words that led to violence-related emergency notifications:
Students are becoming increasingly aware that Gaggle Safety Management is watching out for them. In some cases, we observe students reaching out for help by utilizing our flagged words. They either use a specific word or phrase to alert us about concerns for another student, or students use a word to reach out in desperation for help of their own. In the 2014-1015 school year, we notified schools and districts of more than 350 emergencies that involved either self-harm, suicide or a case where a student was in imminent danger. On multiple occasions, these notifications resulted in hospitalizations after students were found preparing for or in the process of attempting suicide. Here are the words related to those notifications:
We want to protect students as they move through K-12 and lower the risk of them making a mistake that could follow them forever. We also want to create teachable moments that, along with teaching digital citizenship, leads our children to use online tools, such as email, social networks and collaboration tools, the right way.
Want to learn more?
If you have any questions about Gaggle Safety Management or feel like this service would benefit your school or district, please contact us to receive more information how Gaggle helps keep your students safe online.
Kathy Boehle Manager, Gaggle Safety Management
Kathy has worked with various law enforcement agencies in her role as the manager of the U.S. fraud department for an online electronics company. She is now the head of Gaggle Safety Management and continually works with a variety of sources to find the best methods to ensure student safety.