Advantages offered by the internet and current technologies are widely recognised and actively adopted in education. Students, for example, will often choose and be expected to use their own devices to share ideas, problem solve and carry out research. Despite the opportunities on offer, risks such as internet safety must be managed appropriately.
Colleges and universities are legally obliged to provide a safe learning environment for staff and learners. Reasonable steps must be in place to prevent foreseeable harm. What steps are ‘reasonable’ will, of course, depend on particular circumstances. The age of learners, any characteristics that make a learner more vulnerable in the online world, and the availability and accessibility of the environment are all likely to need careful consideration.
In my role at Jisc Legal I work closely with colleges and universities to offer relevant and practical guidance on e-safety. As part of Safer Internet Day, here are my top 5 tips to help ensure you meet your duty of care:
1. Be pro-active, don’t wait for something to go wrong
- Always consider risks and where appropriate, take reasonable steps to minimise them
- Establish and share fair rules of acceptable use, procedures and sanctions
- Raise awareness of good e-safety practice.
The National Education Network’s e-safety audit tool can help you to assess current practice at your college or university.
2. Make someone responsible for e-safety within your college or university
Arguably everyone is responsible for e-safety, but having a named person in place means advice will be readily available and activities and responses will be co-ordinated and consistent. Ideally, your e-Safety Officer should be a senior member of staff with child protection training.
3. Use Jisc Legal’s policy checklist and template to write your e-safety policy
Ensure your policy reflects current technologies and the use of social media. It’s important that it is clear, relevant and easy to understand for your learners and staff.
4. Respond immediately and fairly to any breach in policy
It is important that learners and staff understand the importance of internet safety. Any action taken in response to an incident, including an investigation or sanctions imposed, should be proportionate and documented in line with your procedures. Any criminal activity must be reported to the police.
Have a look at the Janet website for some useful guidelines on dealing with computer crime.
5. Support all your staff and learners to be e-safe
Regular training will help staff deal with concerns and reinforce good practice. Education on managing relevant issues, such as privacy, will help learners to safeguard their online presence. Bear in mind though that specific guidance for more vulnerable learners may be appropriate.
Training resources and other useful links are available on the Kent e-Safety Officer’s blog. The Information Commissioner’s Office also provides advice on how young people can protect personal information.
You can also read about how Jisc is supporting colleges and schools with raising awareness of internet safety standards.
I hope you’ve found my tips helpful. For further help, why not have a look at Jisc Legal’s Supporting Safer Internet Day page on our website.