A rise in antisocial behaviour, particularly bullying, is prompting Northland schools to start banning cellphones in classrooms.
The Bay of Islands College is the latest school to put in place a full mobile phone ban as cellphone use by students is causing "too many problems"— so much that student discipline and staff wellbeing are being compromised.
The schools' Board of Trustees has made the decision to impose a ban, which will take effect on May 3.
"Between the distraction in class and antisocial elements, including fighting, cyberbullying, theft and increased negative interactions, mobile phones are causing too many problems," principal Edith Painting-Davis said.
She said the school did not see a benefit in allowing mobile phones as they hindered students' education rather than contributed to it.
Teachers were constantly battling students in the classroom to keep off their phones, she said.
After a community consultation in 2019 when a mobile phone ban was first mooted by the Board of Trustees, she said they decided to allow mobile phones to be used at break times only.
Edith Painting-Davis said this was due to the fact that Year13 students at the time did not have chromebooks.
Now, she said chromebooks were connected to the school server and inappropriate site access was blocked to students.
"Mobile phones with data enable students to access all internet material and that is disturbing, especially when we are responsible for providing a safe and secure environment for our students.
"If we see a mobile phone out, we will ask the student to hand it over and we will take it to the office. Our office staff will contact the parents/caregivers and ask them to come and pick it up at the end of the day or any other day that is convenient.
"If the student is uncooperative and it becomes a bigger problem, then we will meet with the whanau to discuss the situation."
Painting-Davis said by removing mobile phones, the school hoped to "dial down" the distractions and hugely reduce the amount of "ugly" behaviour that teachers were having to deal with on a daily basis.
"We want our students to be more socially and emotionally present in the classroom and focusing on their learning and academics. Currently too many students are out of the classroom, trying to sort out problems or dealing with emotional fall out from nasty texts, messages, videos, Instagram… the list goes on."
Painting-Davis said the only real concern whanau have had in the past for wanting their child to have a mobile phone was being able to contact their child when they were on their way to school, or home.
If parents needed to contact their children during the day, she said they could call the student centre or email the school or their child.
"We need to get back to the business of educating our future leaders. Students have plenty of mobile phone time outside school and that is where mobile phones need to stay," she said.
Kamo High School banned the use of cellphones in class only from the beginning of this year and principal Natasha Hemara said the move has made a difference.
"Teachers are saying students are more engaged, they are more proactive. Some students are recidivists and out students support centre is devising strategies to support those who can't let go off their phones."
Hemara said it was important for schools and homes to forge a strong partnership as a lot of social media things happened overnight which schools had had to deal with.
Internet safety organisation Netsafe runs a school's programme that contains safety plans and advice on how to deal with problems such as cyberbullying.
Chief executive Martin Cocker said cellphone use by students during school hours was a "very significant" issue, particularly in secondary schools and the high rate at which students were exposed to harmful digital communication.
"Schools have to deal with phone use as they are a disruption to class activities. (A) cellphone ban helps school get through the day but the issues young people face may not go away by them not using their cellphones," he said.
Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman said children's use of social media inappropriately or without any control was the biggest cause of bullying in schools.
He said the board of trustees has the same authority as a local council to enforce rules in schools, including a ban on cellphone use.