Acceptable Use Policies

This past week I studied school Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). An AUP is an agreement between students, parents and the school (or school district) which allows students to use the district’s network, hardware, and software. It explains to students and parents the potential benefits of appropriately used technology. Often an AUP includes basic Internet safety rules.

According to the National Education Association, an AUP should have six main elements: “a preamble, a definition section, a policy statement, an acceptable uses section, an unacceptable uses section, and a violation/sanctions section” (EducationWorld).

The preamble should explain the rationale behind using technology at school and set out basic expectations for student behavior. The definition section should define key terms in the policy. The policy statement should explain which technologies the policy covers and the circumstances in which students may use technology at school. The acceptable uses section outlines, specifically, appropriate uses of technology. The unacceptable uses section clearly outlines which behaviors are not allowed. It usually includes a list of what kinds of sites are not acceptable, what kind of communications are allowed, and what constitutes destructive or damaging uses of technology. The violations/sanctions section explains the consequences for using technology inappropriately.

In addition to the main sections, an AUP usually includes a place for students and parents to sign their agreement to the terms of use. Some newer AUPs do not include this.

It was interesting to read the differing viewpoints on what should be included in AUPs and how they should be drafted. Currently there is a movement toward more inclusive AUPs that allow social media and texting, and that teach students to regulate themselves. These AUPs include less “do nots” and more “dos”. The rationale behind this is that students must be taught to self-regulate. Otherwise, when we set them free on the Internet at age 18, they will not know how to self-regulate or how to deal with inappropriate content they encounter while on the Internet.

Since I teach at a public middle school, I have included examples of AUPs that would be appropriate in that setting. The first example is for the district where I currently teach. The last example is for the district where I grew up.


EducationWorld. Getting started on the Internet:developing an acceptable use policy. Retrieved from


One thought on “Acceptable Use Policies

  1. janaolson

    I also found it interesting to read the articles about different ways to write AUPs. I liked the article by Scott McLeod at Dangerously ! Irrelevant. He points out the AUPs are often written in the negative. Like the following statements:
    • “Students shall not use technology unless authorized by appropriate school personnel.”
    • “Students will not access or modify other accounts, data, files, and/or passwords without authorization.”

    Instead he suggests writing them with positive statements such as the following:

    1. Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.
    2. Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.
    3. Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.
    4. Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.

    I like this approach better. Then schools can take action in students are not doing the above positive things.

    This is similar to our school rule. We are a Love & Logic school (based on the book by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D.) so our school rule is “Feel free to do anything that doesn’t cause a problem for anyone else.” This is a great rule because is covers all behavior issues and there isn’t a list of don’t that students can always find a way around.



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