Digital Technology: Safe and responsible use in schools
The following guide is a companion to the Guidelines for the surrender and retention of property and searches.
Handling digital technology
Develop consistent practice across the school
It is recommended that consistent standards and processes be applied to the surrender and retention of digital technology. This eliminates the opportunity for later disputes about tampering, changing settings, accidental damage and use of bandwidth or privacy infringements.
Maintain the integrity of digital information
Storing a digital device involves securing it physically and electronically to ensure that the device itself is not physically lost, stolen or damaged; and that the digital information on the device is not remotely accessible. This prevents the information from being accidentally or intentionally changed.
For devices that can connect to a network (e.g. via 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) such as laptops, tablets or smartphones, the aim is to block the device from sending or receiving signals. This can be achieved by simply turning the device off or switching it to ‘flight mode’.
The student should also lock the device before surrendering it. A locked device can only be accessed using a PIN, password, fingerprint or other means of personal authentication. This action eliminates any question of whether the school has access to the device while it is in its possession. It is also appropriate to turn off or lock non transmitting devices (i.e. those that cannot connect to the internet or other network) if possible before storing them.
Teachers and authorised staff should not request any means of authentication that would enable access to the device or online service belonging to a student. This action protects the student and the teacher.
Developing a policy for handling digital devices
Consider the following questions when formulating school policy for the surrender, retention and storage of digital technology:
How will the surrender of a device contribute to resolving the incident?
- Is the digital information actually stored on this device?
- Are there copies elsewhere?
- Is specialist advice needed before the request is made for a device to be surrendered? Is this expertise available internally?
- Who owns the device? Does it belong to the student, school or a third party?
- Will the device be needed as evidence, for example, to discuss with parents, senior management or the police?
- Before storage, has the device been:
- locked by a PIN, password or other means of authentication?
- isolated from any external connection by being switched off or turned to 'flight mode'?
- A record should be made of:
- the incident and reason for requesting the surrender of the device
- the time and place of the device’s surrender
- action taken to secure the device prior to storage
- staff and students involved in the incident
- planned follow up action.
- Factors that schools should consider when retaining a device include whether it is:
- used for maintaining the health and safety of the student
- used for learning
- implicated in an incident and the severity of that incident. For example, involving unlawful behaviour.