Smartphone use - with its potential to distract students and enable online bullying - should be managed in Kiwi schools rather than banned, industry figures say.

It comes as renowned Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg this week called for the devices to be banned from Australian primary schools and for high school students to be taught self-discipline when using them.

The academic is set to join the University of New South Wales as professor of education and told the Sydney Morning Herald that smartphones distracted students from school work, reading and physical activity.

This was one of the main reasons countries such as Australia and New Zealand were sliding down the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings, he said.


However, Hobsonville Point Secondary School deputy principal and NZ Secondary Principals' Council member Claire Amos said she welcomed all forms of technology in her classroom.

"We see smartphones as one of the many resources students can use to support their learning," she said.

"It can be a really powerful tool in the school space.

"But an educator or a teacher should still have the power of telling the students when it is the right time and right place to have them out."

She said teenagers would be using technology for the rest of their lives and needed help learning how to navigate its advantages and pitfalls.

Martin Cocker, chief executive of online support group Netsafe, agreed.

He said the decision to allow smartphones into the classroom or not should rest with individual schools, rather being blanket banned.

This included for primary schools, although he acknowledged primary students had less reason to have smartphones on them.


"There are a lot of things on the internet that are challenging and problematic for primary aged children that are far less problematic for secondary aged children," he said.

"There is no question secondary aged students are going to be making good use of their smartphones in their lives.

"Whereas young people, there are far less obvious benefits to having them."

Both Amos and Cocker acknowledged smartphones could be major distractions for students by not only providing access to games and social media, but being more easily hidden and sometimes having less internet filters than school computer networks.

Cocker also said online bullying and harassment was a problem.

Schools were particularly calling for help to deal with online problems occurring between students outside of school hours that were impacting their relationships when at school.

"We know that schools are saying this is a drain on their resources and they are looking for better solutions," he said.

"There is definitively a need for more support to adopt technology and deal with technology adoption."

The debate comes as a recent survey of 315 children, aged 5-15, and their parents in Lower Hutt found a "shocking" number were not playing every day.

Eighty eight per cent of surveyed kids said they weren't playing daily, while 96 per cent of parents reported their children were not playing.

Hutt City Council sport and recreation manager Mark Curr said the figures showed a "crisis".

"We went to the streets and we talked to kids and we gave them chalk. [They drew] YouTube logos, cell phones, themselves watching televisions," he said.

"Our kids are choosing technology over play. Parents support that because it's safer and the kids are inside and they're warm."