Pupil safety on the internet
Getting the balance right between protecting young people from risk - accessing unsuitable material, making unsuitable contacts, or harming a computer by downloading a virus - and empowering them to use the internet effectively and productively is not always easy.
Dangers to children and young people fall into three categories:
contact - meeting strangers online who may seek to harm them
content - accessing upsetting, harmful or otherwise inappropriate material
commerce - being targeted by aggressive marketing messages which are difficult to distinguish from factual content.
School policy and procedure
Schools and colleges can take a number of steps to minimise these risks:
technology - establishing a 'safe place for learning' by installing filtering systems and monitoring software
education - teaching young people about the dangers and how to make responsible choices to protect themselves
regulation - putting in place a series of rules and procedures to minimise opportunities for unsuitable or inappropriate internet use.
Many schools ask pupils and students to agree to an 'acceptable use policy', which may include an undertaking by users to act responsibly and use the internet for course-related work only, an agreement that users will respect copyright and not to plagiarise others' work, and information on sanctions for violations of the agreed acceptable use policy.
Guidance and examples of acceptable use policies can be obtained from the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE).
More information on these issues, as well as a useful chapter on using the internet in your teaching, can be found in ATL's publication Your safety net: exploring the issues of safe learning on the Internet.
Another useful source of advice is Childnet International.
Need further advice?
Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.