Maintaining a Safe Laptop Environment

4.1  Occupational Health and Safety

Instruction on use of laptops in a good ergonomic environment will be presented to students new to the School or to the 1:1 laptop environment at the start of each year. This will focus on good posture with attention to the position of the chair, desk and laptop as well as demonstration of stretches and other exercises.

Additionally, we advise students to avoid looking at any screen (including televisions) for extended periods of time. It is for this reason that access limits to both the internet and any laptop use have been put in place.

In applying best practice, we are mindful of the fact that students differ in their usage from other laptop users, eg: in the workplace. Generally, they are not seated in the same place for long periods of time whilst using the laptop and take frequent breaks from the keyboard and screen, even in the same class period.

Evidence from other schools with long experience of laptop use is that the combination of educating students about good ergonomic practice and young people’s natural habit of changing posture frequently addresses the issue of physically safe use successfully.

The TAS laptop has been selected with weight in mind. The current student laptop weighs 2.27kgs and students in Junior and Middle School in particular are advised to carry it in the TAS backpack.

4.2 Access Limits at School

Whilst the laptop is at TAS, access to the internet is controlled on an academic year basis, decided in consultation with Housemasters and students. At present, for boarders, the student laptop will generally not be able to contact the internet before breakfast or after bedtime.

In the meantime and as a general rule, it is recommended that parents include the laptop in any limits on ‘screen time’ which includes television and video games.

4.3 Keeping Your Child Safe on the Internet

The school shares responsibility with parents, government and the community to protect our children from the impact of inappropriate material on the internet. This protection at TAS comes in the form of a number of mechanisms to block inappropriate content.

Network Content Filters

Whilst the laptop is on the TAS campus the TAS network filters access to internet sites through a ‘proxy’ server. This is done by a number of machines analyzing each request for a web page to inspect the nature of the page.

Every request is compared to a database of “forbidden” sites and pages and allowed to the next step if it “passes”. This is a worldwide database based in France that operates as the industry standard and is updated twice weekly. If the page passes this test, it is downloaded to a local server which then inspects the content of the page for offensive material. If the page passes this final test, it is allowed through to the client.

Every internet request and download is recorded, logging user ID, time, page element accessed, size of element, method of access and the machine from which the request was made. No internet filtering mechanism will be perfect and for this reason the IT Department regularly inspects these logs for breaches to this protocol. Students found to be accessing inappropriate material will be referred to the School discipline system. The action taken will vary depending on student age and may include notification to parents and limitation to internet access.

Limits to Software Access

Also whilst the laptop is on the TAS campus, the TAS system places restrictions on how software can access the world outside. For example, in the case of iTunes, no material that has a rating of ‘explicit’ material can be downloaded or listened to. What is ‘explicit’ in this case is decided by the iTunes administrators in the United States.

Computer games must be treated individually, with access to games with an MA rating or above (such as ‘Halo’) being blocked through the School server (although this does not mean that the student can access this or other software at home or from other persons).

Parents should note that when the computer is used offsite, filtering is dependent on that provided by the home internet service provider, in the same way that home computers are filtered.

Supervision

Whilst the network, software and operating system filters will assist in limiting access to inappropriate material, computer software will not replace the supervision and care of a parent. Good advice is available from the Federal Government website.

Further to this government advice, TAS recommends to parents that:

  • Laptop use, particularly for younger children, be restricted to family areas of the home, such as the family room or kitchen. This is particularly important where a wireless access allows internet use throughout the home.
  • Children should be supervised on the internet. Make rules about what is appropriate internet use for your family and stick to them. It is recommended that these rules reinforce the school policy of not allowing foul language or other inappropriate material on school laptops.
  • Communicate with other parents before sleepovers to make rules regarding whether computer use is allowed, whether there will be internet use and what viewing categories will be allowed for movies or games.
  • Educate yourself and your children about potential dangers online and how to make the right choices about online behaviour. This should support school advice to students to never provide personal information on a global system or to identify friends or themselves in photos.

Whilst the school has provided various protection mechanisms, the issue of inappropriate activity is largely a social issue and cannot be resolved with a technological solution. Talking through issues with your children and being aware of the issues is the best way forward.

Some useful sites

Digital Citizenship Department of Education and Training

Cybersmart website

Cybersmart teachers website

Think U Know

 

4.4 Social Networking Sites

Sites such as FaceBook present important opportunities for communication and their proliferation indicates their widespread popularity amongst people (not just the young) as the communication tool of choice. Content filters  will assist in ensuring that offensive material is not a part of this communication for our students.

Parents are encouraged to build on the education regarding social networking provided through tutorial and home-room groups at school. This should include active discussion with children at home regarding appropriate use and content.

However, within the school setting these sites also have the capacity to encourage students to stray off task and for this reason they will be blocked through the course of class time and prep time.

4.5 Cyber-bullying: part of bullying policy

Electronic communication, including that via the laptop, presents an avenue for bullies to harass other students. The School sees this is no different to any other form of bullying and it will not be tolerated.

The School position on bullying, including cyber-bullying, is contained in the student diary every term and students and parents should be familiar with this.