The ACT government has tightened restrictions on student access to information technology to counter the threat of cyberbullying in territory schools.
Fairfax Media last month revealed schools could be liable if students become the victims of cyberbullying in Canberra playgrounds.
University of Canberra legal experts Amy Dwyer and Patricia Easteal warned the expansion of technology meant schools could be held responsible if cyberbullying occurred on school grounds, during school hours or using school-owned technology.
The pair said schools could also be liable if the bullying took place out of hours but in connection with a school-related activity, or if the school had no policy to protect students.
Public school students and their parents must sign a code of practice to use information technology equipment, which includes an undertaking not to send or produce things that might upset others.
The new, expanded ACT policy, introduced last month, now includes guidelines on personal electronic devices, wireless networks in schools and best practice for privacy issues relating to third-party web services.
A spokesman for Education
Minister Joy Burch said the new policy had been designed with personal devices, such as mobile phones and tablet computers, in mind.
''Many schools in the ACT now use tablet devices as part of the classroom learning environment,'' the spokesman said. ''In many instances, these devices are owned by the students and can connect to the internet outside of the school intranet network.
''That is why this updated policy ensures that, even in these situations, the use of these devices must still comply with the school's ICT [information and communications technology] guidelines and schools are aware of their obligations to ensure the appropriate use of these devices.''
The spokesman said the directorate regularly reviewed and updated its policies to ensure best practice and to respond to emerging challenges.
''The use of ICT in schools is a rapidly changing area and the directorate has responded to the considerable growth in the use, and technical capacity, of personal devices such as mobile phones,'' he said. ''The updated policy ensures that school ICT policies for students and staff cover the use of these devices at schools during school hours.''
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