To allow students to set their own norms in a social world without modeling or guidance is to condemn them to a virtual Lord of the Flies situation, then cry out in frustration when they end up making bad choices. The adult members of the school community have a responsibility to model appropriate behavior to our students, guide them when their behavior strays from acceptable norms, and provide a safe space for experimentation and boundary testing as well as a recourse from irreversible consequences when things go really bad.
And yet we have to keep in mind that there is a distinct difference between effective monitoring in the context of a caring relationship and letting a machine take over the job of parent, teacher or other involved adult by flagging keywords, sending out form-letter alerts and racking up 'bully points." A teacher, for example, could privately call out a spring break profile pic posted in a public forum that shows way more skin than is appropriate, giving the student an opportunity to change it. A coach could reach out via direct message to a student who is complaining about bullies in school over Twitter. And a parent could scan her child's Kik messenger feed to see if he is responding to the messages he received at 2 a.m., when he should be asleep. Each of these are situations that have actually happened in our school, and they are all examples of monitoring students on social media within the context of a caring community of people.
As we modified our school's social media policy and began to share it with parents and students, our primary goal was helping our students develop habits of mind and skills of behavior and interaction that would influence them well beyond the walls of the school and long after they turned 18. We monitor our older students' navigation of social media, just as caring parents and teachers watch as our younger children navigate playground politics: by modeling, redirecting, reflecting and adjusting. And we encourage our willing teachers to interact with their students on social media, redirect them if necessary and even occasionally call out inappropriate behavior. Because if we as adults do not help them recognize and live out appropriate norms, we as a society will reap the consequences of the inappropriate norms they learn in our absence. This approach isn't cheap, or easy or automated. But the most valuable parts of education never are.