5 steps to perfecting your internet safety policy
It’s important for all school employees – including teachers, administrators and school IT teams (as well as the students and parents) – to understand what their school district’s policy is to keep students safe online. Districts can address this by creating a robust internet safety policy and making it available to students, staff and parents.
So what exactly goes into an internet safety policy? Some requirements are mandated by federal law. For instance, the Children’s Internet Protection Act requires that schools have an internet safety policy that requires schools to block or filter access to pictures that are obscene, child pornography or harmful to minors. Some school districts may also need to include certain requirements in order to comply with laws in their state.
What should your internet safety policy include?
Beyond the federal and state requirements, here are some additional things your online safety policy should include:
1. Describe the roles and responsibilities of individuals and groups
The policy should clearly state who is in charge of what. For example, the school board can be in charge of approving the policy and making sure it is reviewed and updated at regular intervals. The district can create a committee that is in charge of these reviews and updates, and require that at least one school board member is on this committee.
The policy must state what principals and teachers’ responsibilities are when an internet safety issue occurs. For example, it should note who they are supposed to report concerns. It can even include a reporting flow chart. The policy should also describe what type of internet safety training district administrators are required to provide to staff members.
Others whose roles and responsibilities should be clearly articulated include school safety officers, IT staff, and the communications department. Everyone should know what their responsibilities are.
2. List requirements for online safety classes
It’s a good practice for school districts to offer online safety classes for students. Your internet safety policy should describe what the district offers and if the classes are mandatory. The CyberSafety for Schools Fact Sheet from the U.S. Department of Education provides some guidance on this. For instance, a school can implement a digital citizenship curriculum to teach students online responsibilities and promote a positive school climate. Topics can include privacy and security, relationships and communication, cyberbullying, digital footprints, self-image/identity and more. Requiring students to take an internet safety class and including this as part of your district’s policy goes a long way to helping keep students safe online.
3. Define inappropriate activity and describe how concerns and incidents are handled
Your internet safety policy should define what is considered inappropriate online activity and state how violations are handled. This UK charity, SWGfL, even offers a downloadable online safety policy template. Page 29 includes a good sample chart listing prohibited activities (for example: engaging in threatening or racist behavior, pornography, using the school system to run a private business, etc.). The policy should also state what happens if a violation occurs. For example, it should outline the procedure for reporting and recording the incident, as well as the subsequent actions required such as alerting authorities, blocking websites or other such actions.
4. Describe what filtering and monitoring solutions are used
As noted earlier, CIPA requires school districts to block or filter access to certain types of materials. School districts can add to this by blocking certain sites, or adopt monitoring software to keep track of how students are using their devices. A district’s internet safety policy describe it’s practices for blocking, filtering and monitoring websites. For example, it should state that internet access is filtered for inappropriate content and that monitoring software is used to remotely view and/or control internet access. The policy should be specific. If the district blocks all access to social media sites, the policy should state that.
5. List the district’s acceptable use policy and how it is communicated
An acceptable use policy is intended to ensure students use their devices appropriately. Students sign the agreement stating they understand that the district may monitor their activity while on the school network. It can include language stating students will not seek out inappropriate content and will report it if they discover it and that they agree not to provide personal information while online. If you are offering a 1:1 program, you can hold a Parents Night that outlines the districts’ acceptable use policy for school-owned devices. Students and parents sign off that they understand the rules and the policy before the student is allowed to accept his or her Chromebook.
How can Impero help support student safety?
Impero Education Pro supports districts’ internet safety policies by providing online monitoring software to help teachers and other school personnel keep an eye on students’ activity while they’re connected to the school network. This helps teachers keep students on task and alerts them to potential safety concerns such as cyberbullying or if students trying to access sites about eating disorders or extremizm. Learn more about Impero Education Pro by scheduling a demonstration.