In order to make the use of computers and the related technology that goes with it useful and beneficial for the school community, then an Acceptable Use Policy has to be developed to safeguard the safety and interests of all the users and stakeholders of the school computer system. An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a policy which requires uses of computer systems in an educational or business facility to strictly follow the laid down rules before they are granted any access to the internet or network of a computer system. Before being granted with a network ID, a user like for this case, students in a school must sign an Acceptable Use Policy in order to use the computer services in the institution in an effective and safe way. An Acceptable Use Policy to be used in a school environment should therefore be one which makes the learners in a school adhere to laid down stipulations which prohibit the users from using the services provided by the schools computer systems not to violate the law and make attempts at breaking the security of other users on any computer network.
An Acceptable Use Policy for the use of computers and related technology within a school environment should therefore have appropriate guiding principles for the users. A good AUP for a school should give a clear outline as to the kind of websites which the learners are allowed or not allowed to visit and give a clear direction to the nature of work which is prohibited on the school’s computer system. For instance, the websites in a school system should be used in doing constructive activities like doing research about various topics in various subjects and prohibit the watching or viewing of pornographic content by the users or websites which are malicious and possibly containing viruses (Vacca, 2009).
The development of an Acceptable Use Policy by the school administration is one of the most vital steps a school can take to ensure that the benefits arising from the use of such systems outweigh the threats or general loss. Thoughtful planning and research is therefore necessary for educators who wish to develop AUP which are beneficial to all and sundry in a school setting. A good Student Acceptable Use Policy should be developed in the school to ensure that the push over the use of computer technology in learning environment that has currently taken root all over the world is not abused in schools (Papa, 2010).
In order to prevent unauthorized people from gaining access to a school’s computer system, then rules for the management of passwords in a school’s computer system have to be developed. A password refers to a secret string of characters which one is required to fill before accessing the resources of a computer system. Effective management of passwords in a school system ensures that the school’s confidential information is not only protected from misuse and modification but also secured from destruction and other dangers which may arise because of access by people who are not authorized to use such systems. To be able to protect private data in a school’s computer system, then such data has to be secured through the use of passwords. Passwords in a school system must not be too obvious and it should include or contain of special characters and digits to make it strong against unauthorized access. Only authorized people like system administrators should be allowed to know the passwords or even change them for that matter (Glen, et al, 2010).
An e-mail account allows users in a school environment to be able to facilitate communications with their colleagues, professional associations and other support services. The school e-mail accounts should thus be effectively managed by ensuring that students and staff can be able to access the school email accounts while putting into mind that such emails can be forwarded and therefore calling for need to be professional. School email accounts should also be handled only by authorized personnel in the school who should be the only ones that are allowed to know the passwords in the school accounts and ensure that confidential information belonging to the school does not fall into wrong hands. Protection of private data in a school’s computer system lies entirely with the people having passwords to the school e-mail accounts and as such, there is need for such people to be of high professional integrity to safeguard the confidential information that may be held in such school email accounts. Protection of private data in a school’s computer system can only be possible if school e-mail accounts are effectively managed by the concerned people.
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Antivirus software are programmes developed to protect computer systems from malicious damage or destructive programmes developed by rogue computer users or programmers. Strong antivirus programmes should be installed on all computer systems belonging to the school and ensure that they are constantly updated in order to detect any harmful or destructive programmes or viruses which may pose a potential danger to the information or data held by the school’s computer system. Users in a school environment should also be made aware to scan any email attachments before opening them on the school computers to detect any virus programmes that may be maliciously be attached in their emails. An Acceptable Use Policy for a school should also notify the users that foreign devices should be scanned before being used on the school’s computer systems to ensure that any virus threats are detected and cleaned. Foreign flash disks, memory cards, hard disks and other storage devices and media should be scanned and cleaned of any potential threats before being used on the school’s computer system (Papa, 2010).
A good AUP for the school should be one which notifies users of computer systems and related technologies to notify the school’s system administrator of any abnormal actions observed on the school’s computer like foreign messages displayed on the screen, regular hanging of the computer and funny messages from email addresses they cant comprehend. This is because such observations may be signs of computer viruses and learners must, in signing of Acceptable Use Policies, acknowledge to report such cases to concerned authorities during their use of computer systems in the school. This will ensure that any early signs of computer viruses are detected prior enough for the system administrators to take urgent corrective actions. Failure to notify early signs of viruses will make the computers become un-operational and lead to loss of sensitive and vital information for all the users of the school computer system. Computers infected by viruses should be disinfected by installation of updated antivirus programmes to ensure that the loss of un- backed information is countered early enough to prevent further losses (Vacca, 2009).
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Rules must be laid down about opening of documents which have been received through email on the school’s computers because most viruses have been known to be transmitted through such means. Users should therefore commit themselves to scanning of any document that they receive via email to make sure that threats posed by viruses hidden in emails are well countered. On the other hand, an Acceptable Use Policy for the school should stipulate the proper way of shutting down computers to prevent crashing and loss of data attributed to improper ways of shutting down computers. Rules should be laid down on how to properly shut down computers after use and punitive measures put in place to punish users who don’t follow the laid down procedures of shutting down computer systems. Lack of skills in properly shutting down a computer system will lead to crashing of the machines and loss of vital school data.
An Acceptable Use Policy for a school should also stipulate rules governing the installation of software on a school’s computer systems. Installation of software on a school computer system should only be done by the school system administrators and therefore other users should be banned from installation of programmes or software on the computer systems without authority or permission from the administrators. The AUP should also outline the punishment to be meted on users who go against this rule. In order to prevent unauthorized installation of programmes on the school computer systems, administrators should grant limited rights or access to the resources of a computer system which bars authorized people from installing such programmes on school computer machines. The school owned software should also be effectively be used for the purpose they were meant for and users should be banned from using school owned software for their own commercial purposes.
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In order to prevent loss of crucial data stored on computer machines in a school, users should be advised on backing up their files or data. Backing up is the storage of a copy of the data held in a computer system in an alternate external location like on external hard disks, flash disks, compact disks and memory sticks. Backing up of files and data ensures that users can be able to retrieve their information even when the computer system has crashed or lost information as a result of being infested by viruses. Junk or spam email is email which is received from unknown sources and which at most times may contain viruses. Spam or junk email should never be opened, forwarded or even replied to. An Acceptable Use Policy for a school should also prohibit piracy of copyrighted software and even prohibit any downloading or sending of any material on school computers that is copyrighted (Vacca, 2009).
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy (FERPA) should ensure that personal information held in a schools computer system is held and used legitimately for the purposes it is meant for. The privacy of students in the systems should also be protected and social media such as face book discouraged for use by students during class time. Cyber bullying, which refers to the threatening, tormenting, humiliation, harassment or embarrassment of a preteen, child or teen by another preteen, child or teen using the internet, digital and interactive technologies and mobile phones should be discouraged in a school setting and such cases reported to the school’s system administrators. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (ICPA) should be adopted in the school’s Acceptable Use Policy to protect students from internet contents or pictures which are obscene, harmful in nature and pornographic to safeguard the learning interests of students. All in all, the school should put in place an Acceptable Use Policy that is beneficial to everyone in a school community.