The Internet is a powerful tool. With the click of a button, students are whisked away to new worlds. Quick access also permits teachers to design and share creative lessons and projects. Because of this ease of use many students and teachers use the Internet daily. In fact, many users could not imagine a world without the Internet. We have become dependent on it so much so that using it is as natural as breathing. Yet it is not problem free. Unfortunately, the click of a button can also lead to on-line predators, cyber-bullies and malicious software. Schools cannot filter or block every webpage either. If this is the case, how do schools keep users safe? Obviously education is the key. By teaching students how to use the Internet responsibly, schools are establishing expected behaviours when students are on-line. One important component of the learning process is an “acceptable use policy”. What is this policy and what does it entail?
In a nutshell, an “Acceptable Use Policy” is an agreement that a user must agree to follow in order to have access to a network or the Internet. Businesses and educational institutions often require employees or students to sign an acceptable use policy before being assigned a username and a password. Basically, the policy “sets out acceptable uses, rules of on-line behaviour, and access privileges. Also covered are penalties for violations of the policy, including security violations and vandalism of the system.” (Acceptable Use Policies, n.d.)
An effective “Acceptable Use Policy” should contain six key elements: a preamble, a definition section, a policy statement, an acceptable uses section, an unacceptable uses section, and a violations/sanctions section. (Education World: Getting Started on the Internet, n.d.)
Although all six elements are important, the acceptable and unacceptable use sections are the most important aspect of the policy because these sections clearly outline what a student may or may not do when accessing the Internet at school. Some common behavioural expectations are:
1) Do not give out personal information (address, telephone number, parents’ work address/telephone number, or name and location of your school).
2) Let someone in authority know right away if you come across any information that makes you feel uncomfortable.
3) Never agree to get together with someone you “meet” on-line.
4) Do not respond to any messages that are inappropriate, mean or in any way make you feel uncomfortable.
(WRSD Documents, n.d.)
These four examples clearly focus on student safety as well as appropriate network behaviour. Even though some of these expectations seem obvious, schools cannot afford any carelessness in this day and age. Whether Voltaire was the first to coin “with great power, comes great responsibility” or not, the idea behind the statement applies here. The Internet is a great power, that comes with great responsibility. Because the Internet is part of our students’ daily lives, they need to adopt acceptable use behaviours as soon as possible. Of course, education is the key. Before students click that button, an acceptable use policy must be in place; and more importantly, it must be reinforced daily.
Listed below are four examples of Acceptable Use Polices found in various Canadian schools:
Acceptable Use Policies. (n.d.). iSAFE: Dig Deeper. Retrieved September 15, 2012, from http://www.isafe.org/imgs/pdf/education/AUPs.pdf
Education World: Getting Started on the Internet: Developing an Acceptable Use Policy (n.d.). Education World: The Educator’s Best Friend. Retrieved September 15, 2012, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr09
WRSD Documents. (n.d.). Wild Rose Public Schools. Retrieved September 15, 2012, from http://www.wrsd.ca/downloads/Computer-Acceptable-Use-and-consent.pdf (WRSD Acceptable Use Policy — updated link)