Acceptable Use Policy


ESC-2 Network Acceptable Use Guidelines

What Should Be in Your Acceptable Use Agreement?

Beyond committing yourself to integrating Internet technology into your school's curriculum, the most important thing you can do is to develop a comprehensive and easily understood policy for Internet usage. A good policy can help protect school resources, limit liability, and clarify rights and expectations of both students and staff members. As always, you should consult your school district's attorney for guidance in drafting a policy. A description of the main components of a model policy for acceptable Internet use follows:

  1. Clear, specific language - don't leave staff members and students guessing at what you're trying to say. Define all ambiguous terms and use language that is age-appropriate.


  2. Detailed standards of behavior - be specific about what you expect of students and staff members when they utilize the Internet for educational purposes. Stress appropriate use, describe the school's Internet policy, and outline the legal issues involved. Also remind users that Internet use is a privilege and not a right.


  3. Detailed enforcement guidelines/standards - be explicit about how you will enforce your school's policy. Offer specific examples of prohibited behavior and the punishment delineated for it. Explain the types of liability that a student or staff member will face in the event of violations of the law and/or the school's rules concerning acceptable use and Net Etiquette.


  4. A comprehensive Internet policy statement - for both students and staff members. Also confer with your school district's attorney and elicit suggestions from other administrators, staff members, students, and parents.


  5. Outline/list of acceptable vs. not acceptable uses - again, be specific. This is not an instance where you want to be over or under-inclusive. Make sure that after reading the list, students and staff can clearly articulate what constitutes acceptable use.


  6. Student and parent consent forms - consent forms are always a good idea particularly in this context, where some parents may not want their children on the Internet. The consent form or agreement should be specific, easy to understand and comprehensive.


  7. Description of online etiquette - in addition to the five rules of Net Etiquette listed below, it may be a good idea to establish a priority system for students. For example, though games may have educational merit, other educational pursuits (e.g., research) may be a more efficient use of limited time.


  8. Privacy statement - inform students and staff that privacy on the Internet is relative. Make clear the fact that the school may find it necessary to view data or files on the system. Also remind users that you cannot guarantee confidentiality of information stored on the Network.


  9. Disclaimer of liability - this statement should be drafted so as to protect against inappropriate use, copyright violations, or accuracy of information found on a school's system.


For a more detailed look at the many issues, refer to the December 1997 National Association of Secondary School Principals Legal Memorandum entitled Schools and the Internet Revolution (ISSN 0192-6152).

Net Etiquette

Ethical rules concerning Internet use, although not required by law, are equally deserving of your attention. You should develop a set of informal guidelines for appropriate and efficient use. These important guidelines have been coined “Net Etiquette,” and getting your students and staff members to learn, appreciate, and follow these rules is essential:

  1. Be polite.


  2. Use appropriate language.


  3. Do not reveal or request personal information.


  4. Do not use systems in a way that would disrupt Network use by others.


  5. Respect the intellectual property of other users and information providers.


The goal of Net Etiquette is to encourage the efficient use of a shared resource--in this case, the Internet. In devising your own set of rules, employ a common sense approach.

A Sample of Net Etiquette Policy

The following list of rules is courtesy of Larry Magid and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

  1. I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents' permission.


  2. I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.


  3. I will never agree to get together with someone I “meet” online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.


  4. I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.


  5. I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do I will tell my parents riht away so that they can contact the online service.


  6. I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.


Lawrence J. Magid, is the author of Cruising On-line: Larry Magid's Guide to the New Digital Highway (Random House, 1994) and The Little PC Book (Peachpit Press, 1993).