Social media holds the key to understanding the behaviors of groups of people. Marketers monitor social media to better relate to their audience and find out what customers are looking for in a brand. Even higher institutions use social media to interpret what students want in their college experience. As of recently, schools and universities have been using social media in a different way: to monitor the safety and health of their students. Not everyone agrees with the approach, but if it saves the life of even one student, the efforts are worth it.

Bullying. Suicide. Violence. Drugs. Today’s students are exposed to these destructive influences when they should be receiving a quality education. While many older adults argue that bullying and teasing existed in schoolyards decades ago, there is something that makes today’s bullying hard to escape: social media. The Internet keeps the world connected, and adults appreciate the fact that friends, family, coworkers and clients are only a click away. For students who are being teased or taunted, the abuse is a click away as well.

The recent news of Rebecca Sedwick – a 12-year-old from Florida who jumped to her death after being bullied by peers – has prompted school officials to be more involved in what goes on outside of school. When investigators looked into Rebecca’s death, they found harassing and abusive messages from so-called friends. Rebecca’s story is not the first one to end in suicide, and it won’t be the last.

One school in Glendale, California is making sure they minimize the chances of this happening.

The school is paying $40,500 to an outside firm to monitor and report on their middle and high school students. The firm will look at posts on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Student safety is the motivation behind this program, and while no students have been disciplined due to bullying or weapons, officials have been proactive in catching potentially harmful situations. For instance, last spring there was a student who spoke of ending his life. The school was able to intervene, and the ending was a happy one.

Of course, there are plenty of gray areas in regards to this approach, especially because monitoring firms can’t read private posts, so there is still plenty being written that schools can’t see. Still, the idea of being able to step in and help a student in need should never be underestimated. At the end of the day, scho