Remember the days of the old school yard? No cameras, no fears, no worries.

Technology has provided us the opportunity to observe ourselves and how we perform like never before.

However, the line between the use of surveillance to protect or to serve us becomes murky especially in settings where it is typically used to protect and prevent against negative behaviour.

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A prime example of this would be within schools where more and more resources are being used to install CCTV systems in the name of protections of students, staff and parents alike. While there are rare examples like this one in India where surveillance is being said to be used to track performance of teachers and students.

For the most part it seems we are bolstering our classrooms in a bid to protect children from harm and monitor them wherever they go.

However if students are under surveillance during their school hours, are they really free to learn and explore and just be kids?

Back in the days of my school yard, my memory of primary school is that of being kicked in the nuts. And I mean a lot. For memory it seemed a week wouldn’t go past without me complaining that it felt like my baby beans had been kicked up into my stomach.

I also remember seeing a classmate capture a seagull on the school oval with a hook and fishing line. The child then proceeded to drag it along behind him as he ran across the oval as if it was some kind of disturbing kite.

I can’t help but wonder if these important instances of discovery and learning could take place in a primary school yard post the digital revolution.

Is it worth the trade? A generation so closely monitored that they are mere conformists rather than wild adventurous rascals?

Bennet and Raab (2007) state that visual surveillance has a ‘chilling effect’ that can hamper the development of students and curtail their creativity, innovation and experimentation.

While McCahill and Finn (2010) discovered that CCTV cameras assisted students into a state of acute awareness that their behaviour was being recorded and to an extent changed their behaviour in fear that their actions could be misinterpreted by watchers.

In the wake of horrific events around the world, more and more is being spent upon securing our school yards and ultimately our peace of mind.

Whether or not the surveillance curtails negative behaviour is debatable.

Taylor (2013) discovered that the presence of surveillance failed to prevent students’ deviant activities and in her study of schools with CCTV surveillance in Northern England, she found that while most children thought a balance of surveillance and privacy could be achieved, they still felt that the surveillance at school was incriminating them.

The effect of surveillance on behaviour codes was also studied. Taylor (2013) discovered that students perceived that teachers were exempt from scrutiny from surveillance as they assumed that teachers were required to conform to the expected behaviour codes of the school.

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Perhaps the best solution is for parents, teachers and policy makers to approach issues of security and growth with level heads. If we continue to treat our fears and uncertainties with the application of more surveillance then we’ll keep slapping on measures that infringe upon the freedom of our children to happily grow and develop.

(543 words excluding citations).

References

Bennett, C and Raab, C 2007, ‘The privacy paradigm’, in S.P. Hier and J. Greenberg (eds), The Surveillance Studies Reader, Berkshire: Open University Press, Maidenhead, 337–353.

McCahill, M and Finn, R 2010, ‘The Social impact of Surveillance in Three UK Schools: ‘Angels’, ‘Devils’ and ‘Teen Mums,’’ Surveillance & Society, 7, 3, 273-289, retrieved 5/9/2016, http://www.surveillance-and-society.org | ISSN: 1477-7487.

Taylor, E 2013, Surveillance schools: security, discipline and control in contemporary education, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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