Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Is Your Acceptable Use Policy Acceptable?

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Is Your Acceptable Use Policy Acceptable?

Article excerpt

Make sure your Internet guidelines are updated, clear and read by both students and parents.

It is difficult to believe in this Web-centered world that, at the start of this era in the early 1990s, a school administrator cancelled one of my introductory online workshops when parents in his community expressed fear about the uncensored materials their children might find on the Web. While the decision to cancel was extreme and misguided, the media had portrayed the Internet as a lawless and dangerous place, and the parental concerns were genuine.

We have come a long way in a few short years, and hardly anyone today would consider denying students access to the vast educational resources on the Web. At the same time, the online risks as well as the benefits have also become greater, and the power and expanse of the Web make it easier than ever to access materials that have no place in schools. These include offensive content on racist, sexist, sexual and political themes, in formats ranging from online articles and pamphlets to multimedia presentations. Similarly, the explosive growth of person-to-person communications through e-mail, chat rooms and video conferences carries with it the potential for individuals to harass and be harassed.

CONFRONTING THE ISSUES While educators have always had to balance freedom of information against censorship to protect students, the Web presents a unique challenge that school systems have tried to address in a variety of ways. Solutions include blocking out access to any and all chat rooms, subscribing to online curriculum services targeted exclusively for students, limiting Web use to age-appropriate educational sites, and purchasing online filtering products and services such as Bess (www.n2h2.com), Cyber Patrol (www.cyberpatrol.com) or Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com). However, these measures can also throw out educational babies with the bath-water by preventing access to content on important issues such as sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, professional organizations such as the American Library Association (www.ala.org) oppose censorship, and since more than 1.4 billion pages are already on the Web, foolproof blocking by any method is simply impossible. …

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