The increasing popularity of social media, especially among school- aged children, has created new legal issues within the school setting. School administrators are tasked with maintaining order within their schools, while dealing with these emerging issues. In some schools, student social media activity has spurred a new set of policies that allow administrators to monitor such activity by requesting students’ access information, observing the students’ social media accounts, allowing third parties to monitor the students’ accounts, and other similar activities. Prompted by the current trend of Americans’ frequent use of social networking sites and the potential invasion of individual privacy caused by educators’ undefined ability to investigate student accounts, states have begun to legislate on this important issue. However, legislators seem to be in disagreement about the required extent of the coverage of these protections, as demonstrated by the lack of uniformity in the existing state statutes.
This Comment will first balance the legitimate interests of school administrators in maintaining order, safety, and discipline within their schools against the interests of students in keeping their social media accounts private and maintaining their First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and privacy rights. Next, this Comment will compare the operation and effects of the four major provisions—scope, retaliation prohibitions, enforcement mechanisms, and exceptions—in the existing 15 state statutes that protect students’ social media privacy rights. Finally, this Comment will suggest uniform federal legislation as a way to both remedy the disparate treatment of the existing state statutes and balance the legitimate interests of both schools and students in social media monitoring.