A Bay of Plenty high school has banned its students from taking cellphones to school.
Te Puke High School students were told on August 10 about the ban and that it would 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 taking 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 need 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."
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said he fully supported Te Puke High School's position and his school had a similar ban in place.
"They can bring them to school but must be put away as soon as they enter the school gate and cannot be used at school.
"They can take them out for use once out the school gate."
Walsh said the school surveyed students a year ago on mobile phone usage at school.
He said students were "refreshingly honest" about using their phones in school mostly for social media and not for learning.
"In fact, many said since the ban they don't now feel the peer pressure to engage with social media during the day.
"We have found since [the] ban that students are more focused on learning, talk to each other more and there is less cyberbullying.
"It is a good example that teenagers not only need but appreciate boundaries particularly when explained it is done to support their learning."
Rotorua Lakes High principal Jon Ward said he had banned cellphones at his last school, Tararua College, to help reduce cyberbullying.
"At the time it did work really well and there was a massive reduction in cyberbullying but the physical bullying increased. So it's not a black and white story. I sit on the fence about it," he said.
"It is not the cellphones themselves that is the issue it is around cyber safety."
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."
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