A Bay of Plenty high school has banned its students from taking cellphones to school.
Te Puke High School students were banned from bringing mobile phones to school on August 10 and the ban will remain in place "until further notice".
Principal Alan Liddle has refuted rumours the ban was due to students filming fights at school and posting the footage to social media.
Instead, he said, in a statement, regulations were introduced at the start of 2019 to improve student engagement in learning and minimise the temptation for them to use their phones during class time for social messaging and entertainment.
"Unfortunately, during 2020 and in particular since the return to school from lockdown, students have tended to use their mobile phones at school more, including the use of social media," he said.
"This is a problem that schools throughout New Zealand are having to deal with, which causes disruption to teaching and learning."
Liddle said the school responded to a recommendation from community members and some parents and caregivers to ban students from bringing their phones to school.
The need for a phone ban was explained to students at a school assembly on August 10.
"Our highest priority is for students and staff to be able to learn in a safe environment without disruption."
A school parent, who spoke under anonymity, said she agreed with the college's decision not to have phones on at school but believed "they have left it a bit late".
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"I understand that the ban has to do with kids using them to film fights, which have actually happened outside of school hours, even been on the weekend ..."
However, Liddle said it was "incorrect" that the ban was due to students using their phone to film fighting.
The parent said mobile phones, laptops, any devices that existed in today's society never existed when she was at school.
"So my generation and older need to accept that this is the way of the world today. We had to go to the office to contact our parents and vice versa."
She said her child did not get a cellphone until she was almost 14. But she was glad her child had a cellphone now so they could text her when they needed picking up from after school activities or if they needed a ride home.
"Kids have lots going on these days and phones are handy.
"I agree with not having them in class but in their free time - at lunch, they should be able to use their phones."
Ōtūmoetai College principal Russell Gordon said schools needed to create policies and procedures appropriate for particular contexts.
"We don't ban the use of cellphones, however, we do moderate how students can use them.
"We use the tool, not a toy philosophy when considering what is the appropriate use for cellphones in school."
Gordon said students were expected to keep their phones in their bags when in class and use them only if the teacher deemed it appropriate.
"If students fail to follow these expectations they may be warned, and failure to comply will mean the confiscation of their cellphone for a period of time."
Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said cellphones were not banned at his school but he did not recommend them as an educational device.
Students were encouraged to use Chrome books or iPads for educational purposes instead of their phones, he said.
NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker said it was a school's responsibility to provide learning in a safe environment and "if the phones are getting in the way of that the school has no choice" but to ban the phones.
However, he said he understood the need for parents to connect with their child via cellphone.
"Parents clearly rely on mobile phones to help them manage the comings and goings of their families," he said.
WHAT ARE THE SEVEN STEPS OF THE ONLINE SAFETY PARENT TOOLKIT
At the heart of the Online Safety Parent Toolkit is a seven-step framework that guides parents through online safety conversations with their child. It helps parents to:
Understand potential risks, challenges and sometimes illegal behaviours
Learn about their tamariki's activities
Explore for themselves the technology their child uses
Agree and set expectations as a family on what to do online
Teach basic online safety concepts
Model the behaviours you want to see your child use
Plan what to do if things go wrong