Acceptable Use Policies

An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is essentially a list of guidelines and expectations regarding computer and technology use that all invested parties agree to follow. Acceptable Use Policies are common in educational settings, but are they are often found in workplaces as well.  Quite simply, the purpose of an Acceptable Use Policy is to define the acceptable purposes of the technology that is found in a school setting, workplace, etc. The policy also defines the consequences for those who are fail to adhere to the policy guidelines.

When creating an Acceptable Use Policy for a K-12 educational setting, it is important to be familiar with the federal and state laws associated with technology and internet use by children. A district policy should be built upon a firm foundation of  the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) , the  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the Protecting Children in the 21st Century portion of the Broadband Data Services Act.

CIPA  laws were put in place to address the concern over children being exposed to inappropriate, obscene, or otherwise harmful content and images over the internet. Schools and libraries receive discounted internet access provided that they abide by the CIPA laws. The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors ” (FCC).

The FCC website clearly lists the internet safety measures that school and libraries must adopt.

COPPA laws, while still in place to protect children, serve a very different purpose. Rather than protecting children from inapproprate conent, COPPA laws regulate unfair and deceptive acts connected with the collection of personal information about children on the internet. This law is not about online safety; COPPA compliance does not mean that a site is safe for children. A COPPA compliant site is one that provides privacy policies explaining the use of any information a child provides. It “also  allows parents to retrieve that information and also to not allow that site to solicit information from their child. This law is still enforced and applies to children 13 or younger” (Forbes).

The Broadband Data Services Act was signed into law in 2008. Within the Act, a portion of the law called “Protecting Children in the 21st Century,”  requires schools to educate children on the safe use of the Internet. This rule requires schools to educate children  “regarding appropriate online behavior including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and regarding cyberbullying awareness and response” (Rethinking).

Additionally, new state laws regarding cyberbullying have been put into place in light of the media attention surrounding the issue of online bullying.  A list of Cyberbulling Laws by State can help individual districts identify state laws regarding cyberbullying.

A clear understanding of these laws is the starting place upon which to build an AUP.  As a school district develops its AUP, it important to address the following topics in the policy:

  •  District Technological Resources
    • How will the district technological resources be used by staff and students? What kids of activities, communications, etc. are deemed inappropriate?
  • Stakeholders
    • Who will research, develop, and write the Acceptable Use Policy? What role will parents,  students, and classroom teachers play in the development of the policy?
  • Intellectual Property Issues
    • How will copyright issues, plagiarism, forgery, etc. be addressed?
  • Communication
    • What  guidelines should be in place regarding electronic communication among and between staff and students?
  • Mobile Devices and BYOD
    • Will (and how) will personal devices be used in classrooms/school campuses? How will filters, networks, and firewalls be impacted by the used of personal devices?
  • Consequences
    • What will the consequences be for those who violate the policy?

No one can deny the challenges a district faces when designing and revising its AUP.  While a policy must be comprehensive enough to protect students and district staff members, it must also be flexible enough to allow for rapid changes that occur with educational technological resources. Some districts in the country have been able to develop some exemplar policies that other districts may want to use as resource. Examples are listed below.

Katy Independent School District Student Responsible Use Guidelines for Technology

New Canaan Public Schools Information and Communications Technologies Acceptable Use Policy Guidelines

North Arlington High School and Middle School Computer/Internet Acceptable Use Policy

Loomis Union School District Acceptable Use Policy

 

Resources:

Broadband Data Services Improvement. Retrieved September 13, 2014 from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-110publ385/html/PLAW-110publ385.htm

Children’s Internet Protection Act. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2014  from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act

FTC Clarifies Children’s Online Privacy Law (COPPA). (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrymagid/2013/04/25/ftc-clarifies-childrens-online-privacy-law-coppa/

Guide: Childeren’s Internet Protection Act-FCC. Retrieved September 13, 2014 from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act

Patchin, Justin W. & Hinduja, Sameer.  Retrieved September 13, 2014  from http://www.cyberbullying.us/Bullying_and_Cyberbullying_Laws.pdf

Survey: Many parents help kids lie to get on Facebook – CNET. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2014 from http://www.cnet.com/news/survey-many-parents-help-kids-lie-to-get-on-facebook/

Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies for Digital Learning: A Guide for School Districts. Retrieved September 12, 2014 from http://www.cosn.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Revised%20AUP%20March%202013_final.pdf

 

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