Acceptable Use Agreement


As a frequent presenter and speaker on digital citizenship, I feel it is critical to presented a balanced and considered perspective.

Its easy, particularly when presented with a captive audience, to place undue emphasis on the darker side of out digital lives. The media abounds with horror stories and tragedies, of mis-adventure and mis-direction, crime and punishment, but this is what sells papers and magazines and attracts readers/viewers. Seldom do you see the predominant reality of our digital world, people getting on with their day to day activities, be these business or leisure.

Standing up and preaching about the dangers and risks is easy, often captivating and grabs attention. Its simple to find the latest disasters and use these to highlight the pitfalls and traps that are present. Shock and awe does make for a good presentation, but to focus on the negative or exaggerate the risks is to lose the opportunity for learning. You don't want to see teachers, parents or others in a fit of fervor banning all technology use because of perceived risks and dangers.

Its critical that we provide a balanced perspective and provide mechanisms and processes that provide guidance and support. Short term solutions like blocking, banning etc are ignoring the underlying issues of digital citizenship. While they will stop or limit the incidence or occurrence of either inappropriate action or damage, they do little to prepare people for a world beyond the walled garden we have created.

It is only by changing behaviours and understanding, that real change can be made. It is only by changing these that we can make a sustained, hopefully life long, difference.

Rules don't work

Too many people have fallen in to the trap of setting rules in an attempt to provide a safe environment. Definitive statements have a very limited life expectancy, they are often out of date before they are written. The rapid evolution of the web, of social media and technology means that statements specify medium or technologies are soon obsolete.

However, behaviors and actions are timeless. Change and adapt these and you provide a safe foundation for activity, learning and recreation in a dynamic world.

The following are a series of age specific acceptable use agreements and guidelines. They are intended to to establish a suitable moral and ethical approach to the use of technology in its various forms.

I have combined the three different levels of acceptable use agreements into on summary document that links the three strands of responsibility into a digital citizenship continuum. The three strands are:
  • Personal responsibility
  • Social responsibility
  • Material responsibility

Senior School AUA

This Acceptable Use Agreement has six conditions or facets of being a Digital Citizen. The intended audience of this agreement is for Senior School students

  1. Respect Yourself. I will show respect for myself through my actions.
    I will select online names that are appropriate,
    I will consider the information and images that I post online.
    I will consider what personal information about my life, experiences, experimentation or relationships I post.
    I will not be obscene.
  2. Protect Yourself. I will ensure that the information, images and materials I post online will not put me at risk.
    I will not publish my personal details, contact details or a schedule of my activities.
    I will report any attacks or inappropriate behavior directed at me and I will seek support from appropriate people or organizations.
    I will protect passwords, accounts and resources.
  3. Respect Others.I will show respect to others.
    I will not use electronic mediums to flame, bully, harass or stalk other people.
    I will show respect for other people in my choice of websites,
    I will not visit sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist or inappropriate.
    I will not abuse my rights of access and I will not enter other people's private spaces or areas.
  4. Protect Others. I will protect others by reporting abuse, not forwarding inappropriate materials or communications; and not visiting sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist or inappropriate.
    I will moderate unacceptable materials and conversations, reporting conversations that are inappropriate or unacceptable.
  5. Respect Intellectual property. I will request permission to use resources.
    I will suitably cite any and all use of websites, books, media etc.
    I will acknowledge all primary and secondary sources.
    I will validate information.
    I will use and abide by the fair use rules.
  6. Protect Intellectual Property.I will request to use the software and media others produce.
    I will use free and open source alternatives rather than pirating software.
    I will purchase, license and register all software.
    I will purchase my music and media, and refrain from distributing these in a manner that violates their licenses.
    I will report vandalism and damage
    I will act with integrity.

By signing this agreement, I undertake to always act in a manner that is respectful to myself and others, to act appropriately in a moral and ethical manner.

I, agree to follow the principles of digital citizenship outlined in this agreement and accept that failing to follow these tenets will have consequences.


Date: / /

Downloadable format: -

Middle School AUA

This is a Digital Citizenship agreement for Middle School Students. The langauge is soften to be more age appropriate and the 6 facets detailed above are simplified into three.

A good citizen is someone who upholds and respects the laws of their country, but also acts in an appropriate way. Good citizens respect moral and ethical guidelines and behaviours. They show care and concern for themselves, their neighbours and other members of their communities. The good citizen respects other peoples property, and expects others to do the same for them.
The good digital citizen applies the same rules to the cyber-world. A digital citizen is a person who obeys the legal rules about using digital technologies, and acts with respect and care for themselves, others and property. And in return, they expect the same respect to be shown to them.
There are three key parts to digital citizenship. They are looking after yourself, other people and property.

1. Looking after yourself by:

  • Choosing online names that are suitable and respectful.
  • Only inviting people you actually know in the real world to be your friends in the online world.
  • Only visiting sites that are appropriate and respecting the rules that websites have about age. Some sites are only for adults. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable showing the website to you parents or grandparents then its inappropriate.
  • Setting your privacy settings so that only the people you know can see you and your personal information.
  • Using passwords that are hard to guess and keep these secret.
  • Only putting information online that is appropriate and posting pictures that are suitable. Not everyone seeing your profile or pictures will be friendly.
  • Always reporting anything that happens online which makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy.
  • Talking to trusted adults, like your parents and teachers, about your online experiences. This includes both the good and the bad experiences.

2. Looking after others:

  • By show you care by not flaming (sending hurtful or inflammatory messages) other people, or forwarding messages that are unkind or inappropriate.
  • By not getting involved in conversations that are unkind, mean or bullying.
  • By reporting any conversations you see that are unkind, mean or bullying. Imagine if the things being written were about you. If you would find them offensive then they are inappropriate.
  • Some websites are disrespectful because they show people behaving inappropriately or illegally – or are racist, bigoted or unkind. Show your respect for others by avoiding these sites. If you visit one by accident, close it and tell your teacher or an adult.
  • Show respect for other’s privacy by not trying to get into their online spaces without invitation, by not stalking them or copying their pictures.

3. Looking after property:

  • By not stealing other people's property. It’s easy to download music, games and movies, but piracy (downloading media that you have not bought) is just the name given to stealing online.
  • By not sharing the music, movies, games and other software that you own with other people.
  • By checking that the information you are using is correct. Anyone can say anything on the web, so you need to check that the research is correct by using reliable sites. When in doubt ask your teacher or your parents.
  • By looking after other people's websites, acting appropriately when visiting them, not making changes or vandalising them, and reporting any damage that you finds.
  • By signing this agreement, I undertake to always act in a manner that is respectful to myself and others, to act appropriately in a moral and ethical manner.

I, agree to follow the principles of digital citizenship outlined in this agreement and accept that failing to follow these tenets will have consequences.


Date: / /

Downloadable format:

Junior School Guidelines

This is a simplified version to suit the younger audience. In order to keep it readable and usable I have reduced it down to the minimum size and complexity of terminology . I have run this set of guidelines through the Lexile readability analyser and SMOG tools.
SMOG = 12.4
Lexile = 710L
This is a set of guidelines rather than an agreement, as having the students sign an agreement is pretty much meaningless. It is intended to be used regularly to reinforce appropriate behaviours and actions.
Need more information on readability tests?
Have a look at wikipedia's entries on them - and

Digital Citizenship Guidelines
Junior School
Looking after me.
  • I will only go on the computer when I have permission.
  • I will only go to pages I am allowed to go to.
  • I will only share pictures and stories about myself when my teacher tells me to.
  • I will talk to my parents and teacher about all of my online friends.
  • I will tell my teacher or parents if anyone is unkind to me on the computer.

Looking after others.

  • I will only say nice things about people.
  • I will ask before I share a picture or story about a person.
  • I will only go to places that are nice and I will tell my parents or teacher if I go to a place that is nasty, unkind or rude.

Looking after stuff.

  • I will not download movies, games or music.
  • I will check that the information I get on the web is correct.
  • I wont leave rude or unkind messages on other people spaces.

Student Website Guidelines.

These guidelines are an agreement between the school and the students about creating and maintaining students websites hosted by or supported by the school. These guidelines looks at the six tenants of the digital citizenship: respecting and protecting yourself, other people and intellectual property.

This agreement covers the use of web publishing through homepages, calendars, blogs and blog comments, social networks sites, wikis, podcasting & vodcasting, chatrooms and sharing files.

It is expected that you will always act in an ethical and moral manner.

Basis principles

  • I will use the facilities for the purpose they were intended, my posts, comments and content will have an educational focus.
  • I will respect and protect myself and others by ensuring that the content I add to my website shows me, my peers, the school and the wider community in the best light and perspective.
  • I will not endanger myself or my peers by posting material that could put me or them at risk.
  • I will moderate all comments posted on my blog. I will remove comments that are inappropriate or could cause offence to other people
  • I will ensure that the material I upload does not violate anyone's intellectual property and I will acknowledge the source of my materials.
  • I will, in all matters, conduct myself as a young adult acting in a moral and ethical manner.
  • I will always report abuse or inappropriate behaviour to safe guard my safety and the safety of my peers and community.
  • I understand that all material published is not private and is subject to view by a wide range of people including members of the school as well as the wider community.

I, agree to follow the principles of digital citizenship outlined in this agreement and accept that failing to follow these will have consequences.


Date: / /

Downloadable format:

AUA Expanded.

This is an attempt to expand on the six facets of teh Digital citizenship Acceptable use and highlight what is meant by each aspect. It is an attempt to provide further guidance.

Respecting and Protecting yourself by:

1. looking after your hardware appropriately, carrying your laptop or mobile device in a bag, securing it in a safe place and keeping it charged
2. saving my work regularly
3. backing up important data regularly (recommended minimum is weekly)
4. scanning your computer for viruses regularly, update the virus definitions regularly.
5. applying patches and updates to your operating systems and software
6. selecting suitable online names, that I can use in professional communications
7. selecting strong passwords and changing these regualrly. Recommendations are:
  • 8 characters or more
  • Number and letters
  • Special characters
  • Upper and lower case
8. protecting your passwords, don't share these with anyone. Locking your computer
9. managing your files
10. Using descriptive file names
11. creating and organising into folders
12. considering what personal information is made public. This can be on your social networking site, when you sign up to services or register software.
13. only put required information in online profiles.
14. considering who you allow to be your friends online.
15. building positive relationships online, keeping these open and transparent. Being cautious in who we share information with and who we meet.
16. posting only material that portrays you in a positive light.
17. consider which images of yourself you publish
18. keep email addresses and personal details private
19. considering carefully when and where I use my credit card details etc
20. remembering anything you say online is public and usually permanent
21. reporting any attacks or inappropriate behaviour directed at you
22. acting with integrity and respect.

Respecting and Protecting others by:

1. reporting abuse to appropriate authorities when I see it.
2. not flaming or abusing people
3. not forwarding junk mail, spam or inappropriate materials
4. not visiting sites that are degrading or inappropriate
5. not entering private spaces or change other people pages
6. informing people appropriately when they have left open their profile etc
7. not using anyone else accounts, log ons etc.
8. asking permission before I publish images ot content that may contain details about other people.
9. respecting other people's rights to privacy and anonymity
10. respecting the trust others have in me by protecting other people email, IM and skype addresses and contact details.
11. protecting other on my network by having a protected, updated and antivirus checked computer.
12. always acting with integrity and respect.

Respecting and Protecting Intellectual Property by:

1. having an understanding of the rules and laws applying to:
  • copyright
  • intellectual property
  • Fair use
  • creative commons
2. asking permission before I use materials and respect the owners decision regarding this material.
3. only using software and media that I have permission to use. This can be material made available under creative commons or the public domain, material I have purchased etc.
4. not sharing my media or software with others unless the license allows me to do this.
5. using free and open source alternative software and medias instead of pirating licensed or copy written ones.
6. registering my software and alway considering what information I need to provide the company. I will read the options and make sure that I understand that my information and details may be distributed and sold.
7. validating all information sources
8. citing my information sources using a suitable bibliography method.
9. giving credit to and acknowledge people and sources that have influenced my thinking or products.
10. Acting with integrity and respect

Copyright - Creative commons

This AUA is produced under the share and share alike creative commons licience. Please feel free to use this agreement if it suits your purposes and needs.


I would like to acknowledge the suggestions and input from the many people who contributed to the original blog post outlining these Acceptable Use Agreements for the digital citizen. These include:
  • Keith Patterson
  • Hiedi Gable
  • Stephen Ransom
  • Kevin McLaughlin
  • Ian Jukes
  • Lee Crockett
  • Adam Heath
  • Brendon Kelly
  • Doug De Kock
  • James MCConville
  • David Sands
  • Brian Kuhn
  • Frances Bell
  • Clint H
  • Alec Couros
  • Stuart Ridout