School extends internet duty of care

11/22/18 2:46 PM

St Hilda's Collegiate recently featured in the Otago Daily Times on their decision to join our Partner School Program. 

While many schools have cyber safety systems in place when their pupils use tablets and laptops, St Hilda's Collegiate is now taking duty of care one step further.

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

Assistant principal Shannon Prentice said parents would be able to use the Family Zone app, which would allow them to filter online content on all their children's digital devices. This would also help them manage internet access, including setting routines for sleep and study time. 

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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.''

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.

Attributed: john.lewis@odt.co.nz

Michelle Polglase

Written by Michelle Polglase

A lifelong learner who loves tech and digital strategy.