School extends internet control

While many schools have systems in place to control when their pupils use tablets and laptops, St Hilda's Collegiate is now taking that control one step further.

From next year, the school will also control when pupils use the internet on their mobile phones at school, and the system will be expanded to allow parents to control usage at home.

Assistant principal Shannon Prentice said parents would be able to buy a $35 app called Family Zone, which would allow them to filter online content on all their children's digital devices, and have control over when they could access the internet.

St Hilda's Collegiate principal Jackie Barron amid a sea of cellphones and tablets that will be...
St Hilda's Collegiate principal Jackie Barron amid a sea of cellphones and tablets that will be controlled by the school next year. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

She said it was important to control mobile phone usage in particular.

''Generally, when things happen, they don't happen on school devices.

''It usually happens on their phones.

''It's something that we have been working on in consultation with our community.

''It's about providing wraparound care between the school and the parents, in terms of keeping our young people safe in the cyber world.''

The initiative was getting positive feedback from parents.

Mrs Prentice said the software had age-appropriate filters, which meant a 14-year-old could have more freedom of access online than a 10-year-old.

It had five age categories, and a sleep-time function that cut off data at a certain time, she said.

Mrs Prentice said pupils would still be able to send texts and make phone calls as usual.

''We really are encouraging parents to use the app as a springboard to engage in conversations with their daughters around how they are using technology, and how we support them as parents and as a school, to do that in a way that makes them positive digital citizens and helps protect them from some of those potential online harms.

''It will also help manage distractions during class. There will be restrictions on the usage of social media during those times.''

Hannah McCoubrey (12) liked the initiative because mobile phones could be distracting in class.

''Sometimes if it's on a group chat, everyone's phone is dinging, so this will help us concentrate better in class.''

While some pupils might find life difficult with controls on their phones at home, she was not concerned about it.

Mrs Prentice said the app would be compulsory for pupils if they wanted to use their digital devices at school, but it was up to families to decide if they wanted to use it at home.

Only families with pupils in year 7-11 were being encouraged to adopt it for home use.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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