The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, sharpened the focus on the correlations between social media activity and carrying out an act of violence. If we pay attention, often some signals are right in front of us in plain sight on public social media posts, giving us the opportunity to be aware and prepare, but even more so, to intervene and prevent.
So we must ask ourselves: Are we doing enough to be drive awareness and avert a crisis from happening?
Multifaceted Safety and Security Programs
A study by eSchoolSafety.org shows 45.6% of threats were delivered via public social media since the Parkland, FL shooting on February 14, 2018. Because communicating on social media is a common denominator to these events – and arguably a clear cry out for help – it is important to understand these communications platforms and have a finger on the pulse of such channels.
Not to be confused with monitoring or surveilling like municipalities may do, solutions like a social media threat alert service (SMTAS) bridge the awareness gap between schools and the instances of potential harm in social media. Keeping a digital eye out scanning social media is a vital part of today’s comprehensive safety strategy. Not only could it increase the chances of preventing an incident, but it could also serve as proof of precautionary effort. It is a layer of protection that is both supplementary to other measures, and necessary in today’s online-driven world.
Needles in a Digital Haystack
Social media is vast, ever-changing, and even foreign to a large number of decision-makers in the school systems. Aside from an immense volume of daily posts swimming in the ocean of content produced across all platforms, each has its own language. Such volume and evolving language make it virtually impossible for any one school, person or organization to focus on finding potentially threatening posts related to them; especially when the vast reach of social media and its quickly shifting language trends factor into the work.
If threatening posts go unnoticed and tragedy ensues, how could a safety team say they did everything possible to prevent it? Those with a Duty of Care for a community aren’t only responsible for students and teachers, they also answer to school board members, investors, and lawyers. Taking action – like incorporating an SMTA – further frames the preventive layers of a safety strategy as an insurance policy.
Necessary in the Face of Tragedy
Like insurance, not everyone wants to talk about unfortunate potentials, but it is still a necessity to protect the vested interest of the organization. Think of it as an additional and proactive step that proves to external teams that you’re doing everything possible to keep your community safe while also respecting the needs for privacy. SMTAs also provide proof of effort in the wake of tragedy.
As the dependency on social media increases so does the potential for more threats against a community or individual to be posted on a feed. Many of which hide in plain sight. Getting the right tools in place acts as a policy that protects your team’s efforts if even a single threat becomes a tragic reality. With so many post-tragedy questions to answer, don’t let one of them be, “How did you not see this when it was right there in public view?”