Bottom-Line: You Need an Intelligence Network

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A recent article titled The Secret Online Lives of Teenagers Revealed caused Firestorm Principal Ken Mercer to reflect on the importance of monitoring social media and building an Intelligence Network

New research shows that 92 percent of teens are online every day and 24 percent say they’re online “almost constantly.”  While Facebook use – especially among teenagers – is down, it is still heavily used, and the use of other social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, YouTube, Oovoo and others continues to rise among this age group.  

Anonymous and texting apps are also on the rise: YikYak, Kik, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Viber, Line, Tango, ChatSecure, SilentCircle…the list goes on.

The research also shows that 91 percent of teens go online from a mobile device, at least occasionally.


Do you want to know what they’re talking about?

You want to know what is being discussed to protect your school, students, staff, visitors and community; those who have entrusted their care to you. You want to identify behaviors of concern to have the knowledge and ability to intervene.


Police say a 17-year-old student killed himself on the campus of Seguin High School on April 17, 2015; the victim tweeted about committing suicide two days before the incident, but friends did not report the post.

In the first week of April of this year, a 16-year-old, transgender teen from San Diego, CA committed suicide after posting on social media. Beginning last fall, Taylor Alesana, a student at Fallbrook High School vlogged about her challenges with gender identity, intense cyberbullying, and loneliness: “I’ve lost tons of friends, tons, and it’s been hell.  I go to school every day, and I get my lunch and I sit down alone.”

The ability to learn that a potentially troubled teen is in need of help is powerful; the opportunity for a better outcome is improved with the ability to be alerted to behaviors of concern.

Dangerous Trends

As recently as this week, intelligence monitoring picked up the trending hashtag of #kyliejennerchallenge.

The “challenge” suggests a method to get a “natural” lip pout by putting lips into a small glass and sucking as hard as one can, USA Today reported. This causes the lips to briefly swell, as they would with a cosmetic injection.

However, the downside is that this method has caused teens serious injury, including cuts, bruising and scarring around the mouth, as evidenced by images the Firestorm team has monitored on social media.

There have been reports of the glass exploding, causing serious facial injuries. The hashtag on Instagram is 1) very “popular” (currently over 63,000 public hashtags) and 2) incredibly disturbing. You can read more from (Caution – very disturbing images of injuries)AlertExample

Intelligence networks are available for schools to learn more about what is going on today. These networks can monitor social media traffic and “listen” for important information. When behaviors of concern are detected we then “look” into individual profiles, public conversations and spheres of influence in order to help put the conversations in context; are these song lyrics; casual conversations related to music groups, threats of self-harm, etc…?  

Intelligence Empowers Decision-Making

PREDICTIVE, ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE PROGRAMS are vital to identifying risks and making decisions about those risks. These programs:

  1. IDENTIFY the target within the seemingly chaotic conversation universe to empower effective decision-making when it matters most.
  2. ‘LISTEN’ to the complex patterns of conversation that matter to you, in a structured, investigative manner, where and as they occur.
  3. ‘LOOK’ at locations, events, persons of interest, and spheres of influence to see the impacts.
  4. UNDERSTAND BEHAVIORS OF CONCERN. The application of experience in combination with the identified risks, threats and vulnerabilities provides predictive, actionable intelligence.

For the past decade, Firestorm has continually sought out the best minds and approaches to help keep hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students safer.  

Firestorm knows first-hand that monitoring for risks and behaviors of concern will help identify a threat before it becomes a crisis. We’re available to discuss intelligence approaches to help keep your school or organization safer.

“What is on social media today will be in your school tomorrow. You now have the power to know what it will be.”

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