An increasing number of New Zealand schools are banning smartphones, gaining media attention.
St Joseph's Maori Girls' College, a decile 2 boarding school reports its cellphone ban has propelled the school to the top of the NCEA ranks.
In North Auckland, Mahurangi College took this step in 2018, with principal David McCleod saying the new policy was met with very little opposition."We've had nothing but support from parents." As teachers widely report in many schools, students were noted to check social media on the sly during lessons. Not only can this disrupt learning, but Macleod believes the attachment can be unhealthy for students."A lot of students found it too difficult. When they got a notification, they had to check."
Diocesan School for Girls is the latest school to make this decision, implementing a ban on smartphones from Years 7 to 10, allowing laptop use only when directed, and due to increased awareness of associated hearing damage, no earphones are allowed to be used on school grounds. They report the step has been taken to encourage more social interaction, and to reduce the stress and anxiety that social media can cause. Students support the ban and positive outcomes have been noted already, including reduced distraction in class, a reduction in inappropriate online behaviour and increased socialisation and imaginative play. While the school reports the latest research linking headphones and smartphones to hearing loss means they are benefiting students long term health, the no device policy during break times may also have positive impacts on students vision.
Kowhai Intermediate in Auckland gained attention when they not only banned phones from use during the school day, but encouraged parents to ban social media at home. The move has been backed by experts and praised by parents. While most social media sites have a minimum age of 13 years for developmental reasons, there is no way of enforcing this.
An informal poll by the New Zealand Herald this week has found overwhelming support from hundreds of parents wanting to see phones banned from schools.
If you are concerned about your child having access to a smartphone within school hours, go to 'What can I do?' for an easy letter template that can help you write to your school. You can email this to your school principal, your board of trustees and the Ministry of Education. The MOE's email address is email@example.com
'Schools say it's a parents' right to choose when their child gets a phone, but it's not a choice, when all my friends have one and they use them at school all day.'
*Rebecca – age 12