Recently, all pupils, parents and staff received a copy of the new Internet and Device Acceptable Use Policy (A.U.P.). Some pupils expressed certain reservations about the content of the policy, worried that the School may now ‘Big Brother’ their devices and use thereof. In Assembly last week, these issues were addressed. What follows is what was communicated to the School by Ms Laing, the Head of Department who was a member of the committee which formulated the A.U.P.Firstly, we would like to thank those pupils who raised their concerns about the new internet policy. The School tries very hard to instil a thinking and questioning mind-set in our pupils and by raising your concerns and not just blindly signing a piece of paper, you have shown that you have indeed been thinking about the document and its implications.
Some things, however, need to be made clear.
The policy is not going anywhere. According to the Department of Education, if we provide internet data for pupils to use, we are required to have an Acceptable Use Policy. This is very similar to the standard Fair Use Policy one signs when one opens an account with Telkom, Vodacom or any other internet service provider. This policy is also not unique to Westerford: most other schools have one, in fact, our policy is very similar to the one used at Norman Henshilwood High School.The purpose of this policy is NOT to ‘Big Brother’ anyone. It is rather to make you aware of the possible consequences of your actions. It is to protect you from making mistakes that will lead to very serious consequences.When you access the internet using (a) Westerford data / Wi-Fi (at school) and / or (b) your Westerford username (at school or at home), you are accessing it under the Westerford domain. Anything you do under this domain may be monitored, like your Google searches, your e-mails and your downloads. At the moment we monitor by having a database of ‘dodgy’ websites and words. If you use any of these, your username will be flagged by the computer software.
When the School wants to access and read your emails, this will happen only as part of an investigation. Mr Cain, as the Head of Discipline, will inform you that you are under investigation. This will happen after a complaint has been lodged about some aspect of your device-usage. For example, it would be as a result of your having been accused of something like - but not limited to - cyber bullying, harassment, racism, hate-speech or distributing pornography.Your WhatsApp messages are encrypted. We cannot access them. If, however, you have been sending inappropriate messages, the person who complains about you will have the evidence on their phone; we won’t need yours to investigate further.
Most concerning to the School is your social media content: the content you publish on sites like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. You need to be incredibly careful about what you post, what you comment on, the videos and photos you upload or even where you hit the Like. These things can land you in serious trouble: if a link between an inappropriate post and Westerford can be found somewhere on your feed or on your profile - even far down your timeline - you can be seen to have brought the School’s name into disrepute if you have posted anything illegal or inappropriate. As an example: a post of “Sullen Sally baked dagga cookies over the weekend” may somehow, down the posting line, become: “Pupils from Westerford baked dagga cookies over the weekend”. It is that latter post which will be remembered. A single, thoughtless post can damage the School’s image and reputation. The School, then, has the right to act.
We must emphasise that you may NOT, under any circumstances, post anything about a member of staff without their express permission.
We would like to bring to your attention an extract from an article recently published in various newspapers, entitled “You could face three years in jail if you send these types of messages over Facebook or WhatsApp – even if they’re private”. It reads:
“The South African government recently criminalised malicious communications in South Africa, setting out a number of new messaging rules which could see you facing a hefty amount of jail-time and/or a fine – even if your message is private.The Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill which will be entered into parliamentary discussion in the coming weeks, has been introduced to bring South Africa in line with other countries’ cyber laws as well as the ever-growing threat of cyber-crime.It has introduced new laws surrounding any ‘malicious’ electronic communication.
Your message could result in jail time of up to three years and/or a hefty fine if:
● It incites the causing of any damage to any property belonging to, or violence against, a person or a group of persons;
● It intimidates, encourages or harasses a person to harm himself or herself or any other person;
● It is inherently false in nature;
● It is aimed at causing mental, psychological, physical or economic harm to a specific person or a group of persons;
● It is intimate in nature (i.e. nudity), and is distributed without the consent of the person involved.
In addition, the Bill compels all banking institutions, internet service providers and cellular companies to assist in an investigation – allowing the government to access any private information as evidence.”That thoughtless post in a moment of weakness can lead to a criminal record which could taint your life forever. You need to THINK before you post. Lynette Myburgh, an advocate and Westerford parent, also cautions about the following: “In the same way that anything you do under the Westerford domain becomes the property of Westerford, anything published on a social media site becomes their property. It then is no longer your private property. The School owns it. The School is allowed to store information indefinitely. Therefore, when you delete something, it is not gone. It can be retrieved and republished anywhere else and at any time. It can also be used in the media.”Advocate Myburgh cautions that future employers will research you. What will they find when they dig deep into your social media content?There remain some matters not discussed here today. The policy is open to improvement and refinement. We recommend that all issues be fed through to the Class Reps and Grade Reps, who can then prepare a presentation for discussion at School Council.