Madison schools monitor student laptops 24/7 for cyber safety

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- This school year, Madison schools have added 24-hour monitoring of laptop and tablet devices to their cyber safety initiative.

A Madison school district administrator shows how the new monitoring initiative works.

The new software powered by Securly catches flag words that suggest cyberbullying, harm to self and harm to others.

“A student might be searching for something that says, ‘I don’t want to live anymore,’” TJ McCray, Madison Metropolitan School District’s director of instructional technology and media services, said. “That’s high alert.”

A school administrator would then receive an alert, prompting him or her to reach out to the student.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 60 percent of U.S. teens have been targets of cyberbullying.

Eric Heitner, a parent of two children attending James Madison Memorial High School, said that he is in favor of the new monitoring initiative. “(My daughter) uses the Chromebook all the time,” he said. “I wouldn’t want her to ever fall into any kind of danger.”

However, with students’ privacy at stake, monitoring alone cannot give the bigger picture of the situation.

“The device is only going to send an alert of what’s flagged, anything that’s bullying, harm to self, harm to others,” McCray said. “If it does not meet that, it will not send an alert to the administrator.”

This leaves school administrators and teachers the task of following up.