Acceptable Use Policy

Acceptable Use Policies for Internet Use

What is an Acceptable Use Policy?

In response to the growing use of the Internet in classrooms, many schools have implemented Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) to ensure that school computers are being used in a safe, relevant and appropriate manner.

At the school level, an AUP acts as a written contract between administrators, teachers, parents and students. It outlines the terms and conditions for Internet use by defining access privileges, rules of online behaviour, and the consequences for violating those rules. The AUP can also be a helpful tool for teachers, offering guidance on how best to integrate the Internet into their classrooms.

The focus of an AUP should be on the responsible use of computer networks. Such networks include both the Internet (the World Wide Web, external e-mail, and so on) and any Intranets (classroom networks, communications between classes within a school or district, library catalogue and database access, etc.). According to the US Department of Education's online Alphabet Superhighway, AUPs should include:

  • A description of the instructional philosophies, strategies and goals to be supported by Internet access in schools

  • An explanation of the availability of computer networks to students and staff members in your school or district

  • A statement about the educational uses and advantages of the Internet

  • An explanation of the responsibilities of educators and parents for students' use of the Internet

  • A code of conduct governing behaviour on the Internet

  • An outline of the consequences of violating the AUP

  • A description of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use of the Internet

  • A description of the rights of individuals using the networks in your school/district (such as the right to free speech, right to privacy, and so on)

  • A disclaimer absolving the school district from responsibility, under certain circumstances

  • An acknowledgement that the AUP complies with provincial and national telecommunication rules and regulations

  • A form for teachers, parents and students to sign, indicating that they agree to abide by the AUP

In addition, an AUP should:

  • Serve as a legal document.
    The school board's legal counsel should approve the AUP before it is distributed.

  • Be complete.
    An AUP should include not just rules of behaviour, but also a statement about the school's position on Internet use.

  • Be adaptable.
    Since the Internet is constantly evolving, an AUP cannot anticipate every possible situation. It should address this fact, and be capable of modifications to cover circumstances not outlined. You may need to update the AUP as new issues arise.

  • Be unique to your school.
    Every school or district is different - both in terms of the technology available, and in terms of who has access to the network; who maintains the network; and who teaches school personnel and/or students how to use the network.

  • Protect students.
    If students follow the AUP's rules, their exposure to questionable material should be minimized. The AUP can also protect them from dangerous online behavior, such as giving out their names and addresses to strangers.

  • Inform parents.
    An AUP outlines to parents how their children will learn on the Internet, and how they will be supervised while on it.

Media Awareness Network 2010