Google Docs is a word processor that students use to study, do homework and prepare presentations. It’s part of a larger collection of Google apps that make up the GSuite for Education, used by over 80 million U.S. students. Google Docs provides a collaborative space for group work and peer review. However, it also provides a space in which students can harass each other on and off of school grounds. Below, we discuss how students use Google Docs to bully each other.
Using Google Docs to Bypass Banned Sites
Students turn to Google Docs for their social needs precisely because its educational focus gives them a cover. Most school systems block all social media and recreational sites. Because Google Docs is used for school, parents and educators assume that kids on the site are doing schoolwork. However, this isn’t always the case. Students often use Google Docs to communicate with classmates in a way that bypasses school social media bans.
Collaboration Can Turn Into Inappropriate Conversation
Google Docs’ collaborative features make it a standard presence in the classroom. Students can work together in one document to review each other’s papers or prepare group projects. However, these collaborations don’t always happen with school in mind. Students are able to chat for fun in color-coded text. They can also share GIFS and easily deleted images — including pornography — often literally under their teacher’s nose. It’s Snapchat meets Instagram meets the notes you used to pass in class.
Harmful Use in Bullying
Sometimes, chats on Google Docs go south. Children can tease, cyberbully, and use the group chat feature to gang up against other students. Some students have created Google Docs “burn books” in which entire classes can join in teasing one child, who may not even be aware of its existence. That’s where monitoring software can help school districts keep students safe.
How To Stop It
Let’s face it: students will always find ways to talk with one another. While banning technology outright may sound tempting, administrators will find using accountability for student technology more rewarding. The benefits of Google Docs far outweigh the costs, especially when student activity can be kept in check with services offered by LearnSafe. With 24/7 online and offline monitoring on all school devices, LearnSafe assures a safe learning environment by ensuring that all activity is educational and harmless.
Text By Annika Bastian