Big Brother Is Watching Your Kids.
We are in the midst of a mental health crisis of youth. Nanny tech software is unethical and will not keep teenagers safe.
Office rooms staffed with middle aged women on computers with the task of monitoring (and flagging) intimate messages between teenagers states away sounds like the imagination of conspiracy theorists.
Yet it isn't. Public school districts across America are paying surveillance tech companies a hefty sum to spy on children.
Gaggle bills itself as a K-12 online safety management software. Vice News' report opens with a scene in Oxford, MI. Oxford High School had one of the first notable post-lockdown school shootings. The district was widely criticized as they had many warnings about threats made previously by the shooter.
With Gaggle, the school district would be immediately alerted if a student used suspicious search terms. An administrator would be able to act immediately without the time-wasting chain of command in the middle. Within days from the 2021 shooting they activated Gaggle's services.
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Oxford High School is only a few miles from where I grew up. In the very same county. As both of my parents work in the district I know how hard the shooting was and is on the community. It's hard to conceptualize something like this happening in your town until it does.
To protect our most vulnerable is instinctual. I can empathize why the school district acted so swiftly on this. Gaggle is not the solution.
The report later shows us that students who contemplate suicide, mention their sexual orientation, watch pornography or take lewd photos of themselves are also at risk. Gaggle's artificial intelligence software alerts their hired grand council of Karens to review potentially harmful material.
In one instance a girl's older sister plugs her phone into her school computer to charge it and intimate photos are transferred from her phone(accidentally). In another, a boy looks up "How to shoot[a camera]" via typo. Gaggle alerted their schools.
The company has also inadvertently outed trans and gay teens to their parents. That was out of concern of suicide.
Beyond the obvious ethical ickiness of nonconsensual monitoring of youth, this rings major alarm bells. Is it too hard to just talk with young people? So much of society would be aided by just allowing teenagers a nonjudgemental place to ask questions. Offer them warmth and give them hugs.
I'm less than a decade out of high school. While I am technologically optimistic, it does frighten me how much the world has changed in this short time span. In this same county in Michigan, smart phones at schools were still a novelty. Obama was still in his first term. Instagram hadn't caught on yet. Now, we're discussing the ethics of school districts paying AI powered software to analyze high schooler's DMs for swear words. Without their family's knowledge.
While technology has made steady strides I'm disappointed that mental health treatment has not progressed much in this time. As someone who struggled with self discovery and depression at that age all I wanted was a teacher or a parent to give me a hug and talk to me.
The boy who shot up Oxford High School was reprimanded by the school the day prior and the morning of the shooting. He had long been reported for behavioral issues with his parents and the school refusing to get him into treatment. Gaggle claims to be an easy solution to a complicated problem. In reality, it's very expensive nanny software that puts a bandaid on a societal ill we refuse to deal with. It's high time we respect young people. Listen to them. Offered them real effective therapy. Gave them hugs.