Acceptable Use Policies

“With great power, there must also come – great responsibility.” This famous quote from the Amazing Spiderman comic books sums up the intent of an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for an organization. With access to the World Wide Web, individuals have a responsibility to be good digital citizens. Schools, universities, and other organizations create AUPs to help their internet users have a framework of how they are expected to use (or not use) their privilege to access the Web. In the same way Spiderman has the responsibility of appropriately using his super spidey powers, students and teachers have the responsibility to appropriately use technology in their various settings.

An acceptable use policy should be designed to help all users understand the expected and desired behaviors for using computers and internet at a given organization. The AUP should also cover the consequences for not following the rules. The guidelines should cover a broad range of behaviors rather than specific ones. If the guidelines are too specific, it will take a lot more rules to cover desired and undesired behaviors.

The terms of the AUP should also be written in language that students can understand. A second-grade student isn’t going to understand a technology agreement written for adults or even high school students. A guideline that reminds students to be respectful of the computer equipment, might be misunderstood by younger students. I know that one of my students was confused when he got scolded for pulling apart headphones in the computer lab. When I told him that he wasn’t being respectful of the computer, he said that the headphones weren’t part of the computer so he couldn’t get in trouble. I had to explain that the rules meant anything to do with the computer needed to be respected, even if it wasn’t technically part of it. After incidents like that, I have proposed to my administrator that we alter the generic AUP form from the school district and make it specific to our school and appropriate for our students.

Students can be slow to remember the rules, so the AUP should be placed somewhere that students will be reminded of it every time they use school computers. As a student who had to follow an acceptable use policy, I know that I never really knew that the policy was. We signed one paper at the beginning of the school year, and that was the last you saw of it. Technology policies should be posted and reviewed regularly. Classrooms, computer labs, libraries, and even mobile labs should have the school’s AUP posted. If the rules are posted, students will be more likely to remember and care about their behaviors on the computer.

Acceptable use policies are part of the foundation students build with digital citizenship. The AUP should help students understand that they are responsible for their actions online and that inappropriate actions will result in consequences. With elementary students (and really all students), they need to know what is and isn’t ok. Even elementary students have interactions online and need the skills to handle situations appropriately. As part of a writing assignment, I taught my second graders how to share documents with other students in our class. I showed them how to leave comments and tell their friends what they liked about the stories. Most of my students took this activity seriously and gave positive feedback to their peers, but a few students took it as an opportunity to send things like “Poop poop poop” over and over. It frustrated the students who had shared because they didn’t want messages like that coming up on their story. Had I taken the time to review the computer and digital citizenship rules with my students beforehand, I may have been able to avoid the goofiness that came with the activity.

In an article by Scholastic, the author suggests that AUPs be written in the form of a contract (n.d.). This format means that students will have at least had the policy presented to them before they signed the contract. Teachers and administrators should go over the rules listed in the AUP so that students understand what it is they are signing. As a high school student, I was required to sign a contract before being allowed to log onto a computer. All teachers were expected to know that all students had signed the AUP before taking students to the library or computer lab. If you didn’t sign and return the agreement, you were notified repeatedly until it was done. None of my teachers ever bothered to explain the policy, but quickly punished those who “abused” the power of the computer.

My school district requires all students and employees to sign an agreement for acceptable use. When I started searching for the actual policy itself, it took me some digging around and emails to our head IT man to actually find the district’s official policy. After looking at the “contract” that students are required to sign, the policy itself isn’t in the document. Students and parents are expected to find and read the district policy before signing the document. With the number of steps it took me to find the policy, I can see that most students and parents probably have no clue as to what they are signing. The agreement easily falls into the mess of other papers required for fall registration. Once I went through the hassle of finding the AUP, I’ve been trying to find ways for my school to make sure parents and students are aware of the policy and the consequences of their student disobeying the rules.

Madison School District #321 Employee/Student Computer Use Agreement (policy)

Madison School District #321 Computer and Network Service User Agreement  (contract)

All three of these other links go to technology policies of school districts near mine. I was surprised by the difference between all four policies. My school district’s policy is definitely more thorough than the other three. Though length doesn’t determine the effectiveness of the policy, I think that a thorough version will limit some of the grey areas that might be experienced by teachers and administrators trying to uphold the rules.

Sugar-Salem School District #322 Technology Acceptable Use Document

This document is from the school district I attended growing up. The technology use policy on the page is very short, and I felt it could be difficult for people to understand. I felt like it left a lot to be questioned when it came to students using computers.

Idaho Falls School District #91 Technology Notice

I felt that this document was a good length for parents and it clearly explained the role of the internet and computers in the district. The language was not necessarily appropriate level for elementary students, but it had a solid foundation for teachers to explain it to their students.

Bonneville School District #93 Computer Use Policy

Bonneville School District #93 Computer use agreement document

This one seemed the most like my school district’s policy. It was very thorough and had several different sections for the different users and ways technology will be used in schools. It provides a very clear outline of acceptable behaviors along with the consequences of not following the rules.

After looking through these AUPs and reading about what should be part of a technology policy, the most important part of the AUP is enforcement. If students aren’t held to the rules of the policy, then there might as well be no policy. If certain teachers are strict and others are laxed when it comes to acceptable use, students will be confused why some kids get away with things on the computers or be confused why something was fine one time but not the next. Administrators need to expect their teachers to uphold the acceptable use policy for the school. Students will learn to just follow the rules and not push the boundaries if the policy is always consistent and always upheld.

 

Sources

Why Have a Technology Policy in Your School or Library? (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2018, from http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/tech/techpolicy.htm

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One thought on “Acceptable Use Policies

  1. Hi Avery,
    Great review. I agreed with many of your points. You mentioned creating age appropriate AUP’s. Terminology and concepts should be relevant to the audience. I absolutely agree. Every AUP should reflect the target users and be reflective of the age group that is using it.
    You also brought up a great point of enforcing the policy. If usage isn’t actually monitored, then students quickly recognize the AUP is another formality that doesn’t actually hold merit or purpose. I like the concept of the AUP being a contract or promise to the school. It teaches accountability and represents a commitment, not just a suggestion or guideline by the organization. In this way, students have signified that they have read and agreed to the terms and will abide by the expectations.
    Finally, I like the idea of posting the expectations. Many computer labs have pictures or acronyms up on their walls to remind students of appropriate and expected behavior. This contributes to supporting the AUP and being preventative in the student behavior.

    Like

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