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by Chris Tobin

Craighead Diocesan School has decided to take a tougher stand on the use of cellphones during school hours.

Principal Lindy Graham said the ban, which took effect from the start of the school year last week, was already having a positive impact and there had been a noticeable increase in face-to-face communication among pupils.

“A teacher walked into the drama room last week and the students were talking to each other instead of looking into their phones,” she said.

Cellphone use was also banned at school events outside the usual school hours such as chapel services and prizegivings.

The school had decided it was necessary to take a firmer line on cellphone use, Ms Graham said.

“There is now a lot of research emerging about the impact of cellphones on young people – lack of sleep, social isolation, addiction to social media, fear of missing out, cyberbullying to name a few.

“International research suggests that social media is contributing to an epidemic of anxiety and depression in teens, especially girls.”

Change could be difficult but the school wanted to “value and protect the school day” for teaching and learning.

“We are a girls’ school and their wellbeing is a high priority.

“Keeping cellphones turned off or on flight mode with vibrations off and out of sight – they may carry them – encourages students to talk, interact, play and connect with each other face to face.”

She believed this would create a greater sense of belonging to the school community and help pupils develop the self-confidence and resilience to minimise dependency on social media.

The new policy was a major shift for the school, but it had been highlighted in newsletters late last year and the majority of parents were overwhelmingly supportive, she said.

“We know that this will be a challenge for staff and our parents – we all love our phones and being able to instantly message someone.

“But we still have landlines for urgent communications and students can pick up their messages at the end of the school day.”

The school’s policy was modelled on one already in place at St Margaret’s College and Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in Christchurch and had been adopted with their permission.

Ms Graham, who is also chairwoman of the Aoraki Principals’ Association, said she shared the two Christchurch schools’ policy with other local principals towards the end of last year.

“All got copies.”

The policy

  • Cellphones to be kept at home, in lockers or in school bags, not carried by the pupil (in pockets or blazers).
  • Cellphones brought to school must be set on flight or silent mode (with no vibration) during the school day. This also applies to Apple Watches.
  • Cellphones must not be visible during the school day, unless by specific request or permission from a teacher.
  • Year 12 and 13 pupils may use their cellphones while in their common rooms during interval or lunch breaks.