The common term for a workplace or school’s rules for internet use is an Acceptable Use Policy. You may also hear the term “Responsible Use Policy,” which describes the same thing. Responsible and Acceptable Use Policies help govern what students or employees can or cannot do on the organization’s internet connection. 


The General Definition 

“Acceptable Use” tells students what behaviors and sites are appropriate to visit during the school day. An AUP covers school computers and any devices using the school’s wifi. More often than not, school districts choose to not allow students to access social media sites, pornography, or any site promoting violence during school hours. There may also be restrictions on the kind of language students can use online. Additionally, AUPs may include restrictions for online behaviors like cyberbullying.


What Does an AUP Look Like?

Most AUPs include a code of conduct. Codes of conduct should state that students can’t use the internet to bully, look at inappropriate content, or break any laws. The Independent Schools Association of the Central States offers a sample Pledge of Ethical Conduct that can work in tandem with a school’s honor code. Some even contain codes of conduct specified by device type, like Malahide Community School’s code of behavior for iPads.

An AUP code of conduct may be followed with specific rules or obligations as addenda. Also, most AUPs will have a clear statement of the consequences that may occur if students choose to break the policies. At the beginning of every year, students sign the AUP to signify that they understand what behavior is acceptable while using the internet. Here’s an example of Oak Park Unified School District’s AUP.


Why “Responsible” Instead of “Acceptable?”

Some school districts are beginning to call their AUP a Responsible Use Policy instead. These schools believe that using the word ‘responsible’ changes the connotation of the policy. These districts are also changing the wording of the policies themselves to put a more positive spin on the rules. RUPs focus on teaching students what to do in order to be responsible digital citizens, rather than telling them what not to do. For more information about the shift in language from acceptable to responsible use, check out this tutorial.


Text by Katherine Polcari


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