The main risks of internet usage include:
- accessing inappropriate material
- developing unsafe relationships over the internet
- bullying and harassment
- circulation of private information
- vulnerability to scams
- data security.
At the same time, it is important that schools do not communicate fear of the internet to pupils using it. It is right to be cautious; however staff should not scaremonger and should convey a realistic approach to its use.
Your school community needs to have a clear understanding of policy and practice: a widely circulated and accessible ‘acceptable use policy’ is essential. This policy should be reviewed regularly and its application monitored. It should cover aspects of school practice such as:
- staff responsibilities when selecting a site to use
- safe use of websites and the downloading of material
- use of social networking sites
- what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of the use of networked resources
- keeping information private and use of login credentials
- transferring and publishing images
- netiquette and use of language
- procedures for reporting concerns
- what action can be taken if misuse is identified
- how the policy is monitored and reviewed
- the school’s approach to cyberbullying (also included in the anti-bullying policy).
Staff, parents and pupils should be made aware of the policy and should sign an agreement to indicate their acceptance of it. It is important to remember that this policy refers to internet use by staff, as well as by students. The school should ensure that new and visiting staff and pupils are made aware of what it contains and that you have procedures in place to check this. In addition, there should be ways of raising awareness generally in your school about e-safety issues. Pupils need to be taught how to keep themselves and their personal information safe, as well as about the opportunities that technologies offer.