In recent years, the number of mass shooting incidences in the United States has increased, with a majority of mass shooting victims being the youth and children. In most of the mass shootings that occur across the country, the attackers are usually young people who are licensed to own a gun for a wide range of reasons. In the United States, more than 20,000 youth and children become victims of gun violence and mass shootings every year (Reich, Culross, & Behrman 4). Social media platforms have become the most common platform for communication and interaction amongst the youth across the world. It is no surprise that a majority of the deaths that occur during mass shootings are of young people who are peers and friends on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter (Parsons et al. 2018). Only a few mass shootings are orchestrated by strangers. Even though the rate of crime has decreased globally, gun violence and mass shootings remain a huge problem in the United States. The government and non-governmental agencies continue working day and night to find ways of dealing with such incidents. This paper examines the use of data obtained from social media, such as messages, photos, emojis and hashtags to control gun violence incidences in the United States, through the creation of groups and offering social advice.
Data obtained from an individual’s social media profile and posts may provide information that can be used to determine their character or behavior. One’s posts and online activity can be used to determine their intent and what type of person they are (Patton, McGregor, & Slutkin, 2018). Violence is often an outcome of continuous threats against an individual or bullying. It results in violent behavior and actions that cause injury to those around the violent individual. Victims of bullying and threats are likely to become violent as a way of retaliation for provocation. Cyberbullying is very common today, with many people using social media sites. Victims of cyberbullying are highly likely to act out violently or attack those that bully them online (Patton et al. 11). Most of the time, students are cyberbullied by their peers at school, which can result in bullied students using gun violence to retaliate. By monitoring student social media activity, it would be easier to note which students are being bullied or which students have poor relationships with their peers. Posts and messages that have threats can be identified to note any potential bullying and intervene before it becomes too late.
By monitoring student activity on social media, institutions can intervene in case of cyberbullying and threats, preventing bullied students from retaliating using guns. Social media data can assist the guidance and counseling departments of educational institutions to identify troubled students and help them deal with what is disturbing them. Bullies and students that threaten their peers should be punished to ensure a safe environment for all students. Students planning to revenge or attack their peers and classmates can be provided with counseling and advice, ensuring that a mass shooting is avoided. Moreover, institutions may also apply for an individual’s firearm license to be revoked if there is no indication that they have changed their intentions to kill or attack their peers. This way, mass shootings in schools would be minimized to save the lives of young people. However, it is important to note that social media monitoring may result in ethical issues and violations of privacy, which may result in lawsuits. Institutions should work together with the government to pass laws that allow security agencies within education institutions to monitor students’ social media activity for purposes of improving security within institutions. With such legislation or laws, institutions would be within the law when monitoring student online activity.
Educational institutions can work with state security agencies and community-based organizations to provide help and counseling to troubled students and young people in the community. Many attackers in past mass shootings were individuals that were suffering from social segregation and bullying, resulting in low self-esteem and violent nature (EverytownResearch.org 2019). Groups should be developed from the cooperation of educational institutions and the community to help those segregated and abandoned in the community. Hashtags on social media platforms are used to attract users to comment and contribute to various motions and topics. Education institutions or the groups formed should use hashtags to attract the youth and share information on the dangers of bullying and unfairly treating peers. Using hashtags, such information will reach a wide number of students and community members, which will influence a change in behavior and perception (Cooner, Knowles, & Stout 245). People will treat each other fairly and avoid cyberbullying and bullying at school. It is important to note that while social media data can be used to identify potential attackers and reach out to them, such people also use social media as a platform to reach out to other disturbed and vengeful people who can support them in attacking their peers. Violent people often find peers that are also planning on attacking people on social media. Messages and posts should be monitored to identify any communication that may show signs of people planning an attack or seeking support from other angry peers.
In conclusion, there is a need to address the increasing cases of mass shootings in the United States. The society should work together with educational institutions and security agencies to develop solutions to the problem. Social media data has the probability of providing a useful tool against gun violence in American schools. Data obtained from the social media activity of students can be used to understand their behavior and intentions, after which intervention can be done to prevent mass shootings and violence in the community. However, privacy concerns have to be addressed before any monitoring can be done to avoid resistance and legal action.