A visiting cyber-bullying expert is urging New Zealand
schools to make pupils take driver's licence-style tests
before they can take mobile phones and tablets to class.
Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, a founding member
of Australia's National Centre Against Bullying, issued the
challenge yesterday in a speech to a Wellington conference
hosted by NetSafe.
Dr Carr-Gregg has already called on Queensland and New South
Wales to adopt the tests, which students would sit at home
with parents before they could bring cellphones to school.
New Zealand's education structure means it would be up to
individual schools to take up the idea, but NetSafe and the
president of a principals' group have cast doubt over its
The tests, which could be downloaded from a central website,
would sit alongside an acceptable use policy, "so if you've
broken the rules that you've signed on for, you can have your
licence suspended", Dr Carr-Gregg said later.
Digital technology came with many hazards, ranging from
"sexting" and cyber-bullying to internet fraud and copyright
At least one in five New Zealand high school pupils have
reported being victims of cyber-bullying.
"I argue that these devices are not dissimilar to cars, and
all students need to reach a certain level of proficiency, as
they would [with] a motor vehicle, to avoid accidents and
trouble with law.
"There is actually no difference on the information super
highway and we've got lot of people who stuff up on a regular
Such tests would not be mandatory and would need to be
trialled in schools, he said.
"We can't sit around waiting for a magic bullet these are our
kids, our communities, our challenges and we have to do
As use of the internet grew, so, too, did the risks that came
with it, he said.
"What we need is a more enlightened view. The licence will
teach kids to use the internet in a safe, smart and
NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the idea had merit
but would need "a bit of work" to achieve its goals.
"Our initial reaction is that as an educative step, there's
value in it but of course if the price of failure was that
students weren't able to access the technology, it would sort
of be self-defeating."
New Zealand Principals' Federation president Paul Drummond
said many schools openly encouraged pupils to bring devices
to school, and had varying policies on their use.
"In primary schools in particular, that's often accompanied
with parent and teacher support and signatures, so there's a
collective understanding around using the technology
ethically," he said.
"That's where I think it liesand I don't know about a test
being able to measure someone's integrity or values around
using technology properly."