Students not convinced that lunchtime wi-fi ban is the best move

SIMON O'CONNOR/Stuff.co.nz

Francis Douglas Memorial College is turning off the Wi-fi during breaks in the hope that students will get out and about more.

Students at a school which cut off wi-fi during breaks are saying the move to get kids off their phones has created more problems than it has solved.

In mid-February Martin Chamberlain, the principal of New Plymouth's Francis Douglas Memorial College, began turning off the wi-fi during the morning tea and lunch breaks.

Students Adam Johnston, Steven Townes, Riley Habib and Francisco Medeiros Calvo said they didn't think it was a good idea.

Francis Douglas Memorial College Principal Martin Chamberlian said turning off the school's wi-fi during breaks has been ...
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Francis Douglas Memorial College Principal Martin Chamberlian said turning off the school's wi-fi during breaks has been a success.

Townes said students just had to have a data plan on their phone to access the internet and while that worked for most students, some could not afford it.

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"Without tarring everyone with the same brush, the average person is reasonably well off - certainly enough to not think twice about buying data," he said.

"But myself? I'm not one of those, buying data is not an option. For the few people with less money, this hits hardest."

Medeiros Calvo said it disadvantaged students who wanted to get work done during their breaks.

"This really affects me and my friends who are currently doing a lot of stuff in business studies as we need the internet to get all our work," he said.

"On top of that it'll increase the amount of people on their phone in class. I have no statistical or physical proof but yeah there is a noticeable increase."

Students at the school had also found a loophole - they're connecting to another school network.

Chamberlain said they had noticed some students were congregating near the hostel, where they were still able to connect to the wi-fi set up for boarders at the school.

"We've now switched that off at the same time," he said.

More than a month after the school started turning its wi-fi off, students had been settling into the routine of living without it for an hour or so during breaks.

"We've seen a bit of a reduction around the school in the number of screens being used," he said.

"The groups of students looking around at break times has grown."

When asked if there had been any feedback from students or parents, Chamberlain said there had been very little but he had heard anecdotally that parents were supportive of the idea.

An unscientific Stuff poll, which had 5,300 votes, saw 67 per cent support the move while 8 per cent thought it should be left on the whole time.

The other 25 per cent thought students shouldn't have access to wi-fi at all.

Comments on Facebook mostly agreed with the idea, either praising the school for turning it off or asking why they had access to it at all.

When he was interviewed about the move in early March, Chamberlain said it was something he had wanted to do for a long time.

"We see phones as an essential part of modern life so students are often invited to use their phone in class and to look up things on the web, and certainly we see them as a vital parental communication tool during breaks. So no, we're not Luddites; phones are a part of modern life," he said.

"But the other side of it is when I see students fixated onto screens, generally junior students who haven't been used to having this at their primary schools but now when they get it here they tend to make a feast of it."

 - Stuff

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