South Island boys’ school bans phones

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Do you remember the days of the old school playground, where we scrolled through Twitter at lunchtime?

Otago Boys High School Principal Richard Hall hopes these won’t be the memories his students take home from school.

Pupils are now prohibited from using their phones during lunch and the interval and will face the consequences if they are caught using them.

Mr Hall said the move was inspired by findings from the Built Environment and Active Transportation to School (Beats) study, which tracked the movements and health of pupils at the Dunedin school.

Last year, the study collected data from 120 students at Otago Boys High School and found that most students spent more than five hours a day on screens outside of class time.

By removing phones, students could reduce their overall screen time and have more opportunities to hit the sports field at lunchtime and be active, Hall said.

The rules would only change one hour of the school day, as phones were already not allowed in the classroom.

The school taking a tough stance would mean pupils would be discouraged from checking their phones between and during lessons.

Students caught using their phones would have them confiscated until the end of the day.

Parents would be contacted if infractions continued.

Laptops were learning devices and students were still encouraged to bring their own to school and use the internet, but phones were not designed for learning.

With the widespread use of technology, people needed to be instantly reachable, Hall said.

He hoped that by removing the phones, students’ need for this instant communication would decrease and they would instead focus on building face-to-face relationships.

Parents who needed to contact their children could still do so through the school office.

He believed that in the long run, students would appreciate and value their time at school more without their phones.

Head Boy Isaac Ottrey said there will be some boys who will find the new policy difficult, but hopefully it won’t take more than a few weeks to adapt.

“I think deep down the boys know it’s good for them.”

Waitaki Girls’ High School implemented a lunchtime phone ban for its students in grades 9-11 early last year and principal Liz Koni said the results had been ” extremely positive.”

The students had been reluctant to embrace the policy, but they settled in quickly.

Teachers and students reported fewer distractions in class, and teachers no longer had to deal with social media incidents that occurred throughout the school day.

Students who needed to access learning tools or apps could still do so using a laptop.

There had been very few downsides, she said.

“Having a few more students in the office who need to contact their homes throughout the day is a small price to pay for the benefits of a cellphone-free school day.”

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