Chapter 7 online safety and security

legal requirements

When it comes to online safety and security, there are some laws that affect school districts. Two such laws are the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

School districts must comply with the CIPA if they accept or receive any of the following and use the monies to make certain purchases related to Internet connectivity:

  • E-Rate
  • Title II
  • Part D
  • Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program under the No Child Left Behind Act
  • Title III

To comply with CIPA, districts must do the following:
  • Install filtering or blocking technology on every Internet-connected computer, whether used by students or staff
  • Implement a comprehensive Internet safety policy
  • Conduct a public meeting to discuss their Internet safety policies and the measures for protection that they have in place

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) limits the ability of web sites to offer services to children ages 12 and younger without explicit parental consent.

A law that was under consideration in Congress in 2006 and 2007 during the time that this book was being written was the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). DOPA would have required public schools and libraries to block student access to chat and social-networking sites. Its purpose was to prevent sexual predators. DOPA never became a law.

New law after the book was published:
A new law that was passed on October 10, 2008 is the Broadband Data Improvement Act, which states that schools need to educate minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response.

Links for additional information:
The full text of CIPA
The full text of COPPA
The full text of the Broadband Data Improvement Act

copyright and intellectual property

Copyright law can be very confusing. Schools do have rights for educational purposes under the Fair Use doctrine, but this does not mean that students have the right to use someone’s work without attribution. Students need guidance in understanding this.

Five Steps for Avoiding Copyright Problems from Davidson’s (2005) Copyright Primer for Administrators
  1. Create and implement a technology policy that includes a code of ethics and set of procedures.
  2. Review the entire policy with your educational community: students, teachers and parents.
  3. Appoint a technology manager to conduct audits and maintain a log of licenses and registration materials.
  4. Teach ethical and legal behavior for technology use.
  5. Thank employees and students for supporting these steps.

Creative Commons ( makes it easier for people to share and build the work of others. A Creative Commons license ( allows others to use their music, movies, images, and text online for specific purposes, such as classroom use. This site not only enables students to use content that they want, but it also helps them understand the conditions around that use.

Links for additional information:
Copyright & Fair Use in Teaching Resources
ALA Copyright Lessons available from ReadWriteThink ( for grades 6-8:

security solutions

Awareness Programs

Students are not always aware of the dangers that are online and need to be informed.

Having discussions is effective in preventing problems for students at school and at home. Deer Park Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia developed the Cyber Awareness Survey to initiate a conversation with their students. The questions and results can be viewed here:

Programs that instruct students on the issues make a difference. Vicki Davis, a high school teacher at Westwood High in Camilla Georgia had her 10th grade computer science class create Online Safety and Privacy Skills ( using a wiki.

Links for additional information:
CyberSmart Student Curriculum (free for educators)

Acceptable Use Policies

Most districts have an acceptable use policy (AUP). These policies outline the guidelines, procedures, and responsibilities for using school technology. AUPs may have to be adapted or rewritten entirely to cover new online tools.

David Warlick suggests four steps for reworking acceptable use policies:
  • Establish goals for the use of the read/write Web tools.
  • Itemize and describe specific uses of read/write Web applications that you will promote and support. Tie these to the goals established in the first section.
  • Briefly but clearly identify those activities that will not be allowed.
  • Plan your document or ancillary materials to serve as instructional resources that might be used in the classroom.

Thoughts: Our district is currently revising their acceptable use policy to cover Web 2.0 tools. In the meantime, we are not allowed to use Web 2.0 tools with students.

Links for additional information:
School AUP 2.0

Ethical Behavior

Because students confront many new issues on the web, school districts may want to adopt a code of ethics to supplement acceptable use policies. David Warlick offers suggestions on creating A Student and Teacher Information Code of Ethics on his blog

Administrative Restrictions

Many administrators might have reservations about students using blogs, wikis, and other Web 2.0 sites.

An example in the book was given by Miguel Guhlin who posted on his blog a list of possible administrator concerns in the form of questions a principal might ask of a teacher who wants to blog with students.

Parental Involvement

It is important to work with parents so that they understand the issues and policies. Parents also might need a place to turn when they confront the same issues at home.

Schools should reach out to parents by providing guides such as the ones published by MySpace ( , or directing them to resources such as GetNetWise ( Parents might also find other materials on GetNetWise ( useful in helping them understand the issues and protect their children.


Almost all districts set up firewalls or filters to protect their networks from hackers and inappropriate web sites. A firewall is software or hardware or both that filters the information coming through the Internet connection into your network and blocks incoming packets of information that the filter flags. Content filtering prevents students from viewing inappropriate materials. Effective filtering stops spyware, malware, and other security threats as well as inappropriate content.

Despite these preventive measures, schools sometimes encounter issues with Internet searching. Some districts avoid Internet searching issues by licensing search engines specifically designed for education such as netTrekker (

knotty problems

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging (IM) involves a direct connection between computers and is a popular way to send text messages, files, audio, and video for collaborative work. Because of its lack of basic security features, IM opens the door to hackers and viruses and perhaps to data capture.

Social Networking

Social networking aggregates existing standalone services in new ways, offering email, instant messaging, and blogs, along with profiles and photo galleries all from one interface.

There are issues involved with social networking sites, such as making personal information public and users younger than the required age for a social networking site lying about their age and joining.

At the time this book was published in 2007, MySpace ( was the prominent social network. Facebook ( has since gained in popularity.

Whyville ( is an online educational community that allows children ages 8-15 to chat and share information. Students create avatars and have to pass a “chat license” test. Violations of Whyville laws are picked up in “911 reports” to adults who monitor behavior.

Image Sharing

Image-sharing sites such as Flickr ( that offer users the ability to upload their photos and download the photos of others have been controversial. Flickr might be valuable to educators who are teaching digital storytelling, but students might find inappropriate images. Because of the possibility of students finding inappropriate images, some districts have opted to block Flickr.

other alternatives

Rather than blocking all web 2.0 tools, one solution is to provide access to sites that are dedicated to education.

Another solution is to place web 2.0 tools on intranets behind district firewalls. is a learning platform where teachers and students create learning projects, participate in a website competition, and browse a library of student projects.

Districts may also hire consultants if they need or want help with web 2.0 services.


Chapter 7 Online Safety and Security contains valuable information on the laws, policies, and issues surrounding online safety and security. I did find that some of the information in this chapter was outdated and some of the links no longer worked. I had to search for and update quite a few links. This, of course, can be expected with how quickly the Internet grows and changes. This book was written in 2007, which is almost two years ago.

As technology leaders, we need to be aware of all of the legal and ethical issues surrounding online access for students. It is important that we be aware of the issues surrounding students and web-based activities when educating them and discussing student use with others, such as administrators and parents.