Want To Know What Your Kids Are Doing Online?

Gemini Junior High will offer social networking monitoring programming; District 63 is also considering a "good judgment" social media policy for staff.

Wish you knew what your kids were up to on Facebook and other social networking sites? Parents at  are going to have that option this school year.

The East Maine Elementary District 63 school board voted unanimously on Aug. 3 to allow Entertainment TruCare to provide information to parents about an Internet-based program that will monitor their children’s use of social networking sites.

“Parents want to monitor their children’s activity,” Assistant Principal Karen Foley said. “But our parents tell us their children know more about social networking than they do, and they don’t have hours to spend every day figuring out what their children are doing.”

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The service works by notifying parents when their children engage in behavior that might be dangerous or questionable. The service determines this based on the words in messages they send, by the people they are contacting, or the content of photos they are sending or receiving. Because it is Internet-based, it monitors activity on computers at home, at school, at friends’ houses and even on their phones, Foley said.

“This is not spyware,” she explained. “It’s something the parent sets up with their child.”

However, it will also notify parents about changes in a child’s level of activity, possibly indicating that the child has set up another account that is not being monitored, she said.

“We were surprised at the things they thought of,” Foley said.

The serivce costs $9.99 a month or $99 a year. Gemini will receive 20 percent of what school parents pay. Entertainment TruCare is part of the same company that markets Entertainment coupon books as school fundraisers.

Staff at Gemini — the district’s only seventh- and eighth-grade school — do not see the plan as a way to raise money, Foley said. Rather, it offers a way to help parents keep tabs on what their children are doing online.

Social networking policy for staff

The board also voted unanimously to approve the first reading and put on public display a policy governing staff use of personal media devices and social networking. The board must have a second reading before it can give the new policy final approval.

The proposed policy requires staff to “adhere to the high standards for appropriate school relationships” that are outlined in another policy “regardless of the ever-changing social media and personal technology platforms available.”

This includes using good judgment in posting images and information on sites that might be accessible to students.

The policy also mandates that staff use school-provided forms of communication with students and parents whenever possible.

To read the whole policy, click here.

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