Setting and Abiding by Acceptable Use Policies
Acceptable Use Policy

As the World Wide Web becomes an integral classroom resource, students and teachers alike are expected to be responsible Internet users. To make teachers and students aware of potential issues regarding safety, suitability, copyright and privacy, many schools create an Acceptable Use Policy prior to giving students and teachers access to the Internet.

An Acceptable Use Policy is an agreement, signed by students and/or parents that outlines the terms or conditions of Internet use at school. It specifies acceptable uses, rules of online behavior and limitations of access privileges. Also covered are penalties for violations of the policy, including security violations and vandalism of the system.

The Internet is a public place on a global scale. You will meet people on the Internet whom you do not know, and you will have less information about them than you would if you met them on a city street. The same rules that apply to meeting and talking to strangers in the real world apply doubly to the Internet.

A few "nevers" to consider:
- Never give your name, address, or phone number to someone you do not know,
- Never reveal your Internet access password to anyone, and
- Never agree to meet face-to-face with someone you met on the Internet.

Although an abundance of useful classroom resources may be found on the Web, controversial material does exist. Teachers need to be aware that some Internet sites contain material that is not suitable for students. There are several ways you can deal with this potential problem in your classroom.

Strategies for dealing with "unacceptable" Web content:

Restrict Internet access only to those times when you are able to supervise online activities.
Whack Web sites -- download the texts and images directly to your computer's hard drive -- and let students look at Web pages offline.
Software packages like Net Nanny and CyberPatrol actually restrict online access to Web sites that have not been pre-approved.
RSACi Standards:
If you are using Internet Explorer as your Web browser, you can customize the settings so that only sites approved by the RSACi -- the Recreational Software Advisory Council-Internet -- can be accessed from your computer.

It is very easy to copy text and graphics from the Internet and use them in reports, presentations, and school Web pages. But copyright laws protect images, text, video and other material on the Internet just as they protect printed material. Congress and the courts are wrestling with the extensions or limitations of copyright to materials that exist online. Until the dust settles, teachers and students should follow existing Fair Use guidelines for print when using materials taken from other Internet sites. Fortunately, many Web sites have sprung up that feature free "clip art" that anyone is free to download and use in any way.

One of the powerful features of the Internet is that it gives students access to wonderful multimedia research materials that can be incorporated into research reports and presentations. But sources must be properly attributed. Fortunately, the MLA and other academic style guides have come up with formats for attributing sources of information, texts, graphics, pictures, videos and more that are found on the Internet. There are even formats for attributing e-mail correspondence and chat room conversations!

Like copyright, our ideas about privacy are undergoing an evolution on the Internet. Privacies that are protected by law in the real world are not as well safeguarded online. For example, your Internet Service Provider has the right to monitor your e-mail messages for inappropriate use, and may retain the right to read your e-mail as a condition of providing service. Your browser leaves a digital trail as you surf the Web.

Some sites ask you to enter your e-mail address. Know that if you choose to give it to them, they may then choose to target mass e-mailings to your address.

It is very easy to send e-mail to someone and make it look like it came from another person's account. Students should be aware that this is not ethically acceptable or responsible behavior. It is also not right to log on to the Internet under someone else's account and pretend to be that person, or to snoop around other people's files online.

Common sense and a healthy respect for the rights of others will help guide you and your students around these potentially sticky issues.

Netiquette is net etiquette. Something about the anonymity of the Internet that causes people to forget themselves in what is really a public place. Flame wars -- a series of back-and-forth hate messages between individuals posted to public newsgroups or bulletin boards -- are quite common. Remind students that they should be polite in their online communications and never send abusive messages to others. Do not "spam" (send pointless messages to large numbers of individuals). An Internet Service Provider that receives complaints about your e-mail account may shut off your service.

Acceptable Use Policies
Rice University's Acceptable Use Policy Samples
Rice University maintains a Web site with many examples of Acceptable Use Policies.

Safe Surfing
The Recreational Software Advisory Council on the Internet started out as a self-regulating organization for the video game industry -- rating games for violence, nudity and sexual content. It has now turned its attention to Web sites, and is a security option setting in Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Cyber Patrol

Net Nanny

Copyright and The Internet
The UT System Crash Course in Copyright
This site, maintained by the University of Texas system, is a comprehensive source of copyright information, and includes detailed information about Fair Use. It also includes sections on creating multimedia and copyright in the digital library.

Citing Sources
Classroom Connect
The Classroom Connect site discusses how to cite online texts, graphics, sounds and videoclips students retrieve for use in school reports and presentations.

Debbie Abilockus Interactive MLA Style Sheets - Nueva School
The neat feature about this site is that you enter in the information about the source you want to cite, and with a click of the mouse it automatically creates the appropriate citation format.

Internet Primer