Golden Bay school challenging the norm over its wi-fi ban

Collingwood Area School enacted the social media and wi-fi ban in March.
Martin De Ruyter/Stuff

Collingwood Area School enacted the social media and wi-fi ban in March.

The move to cut off wi-fi and ban social media during breaks at one Golden Bay school hasn't come without challenges.

In March, Collingwood Area School initiated a whole-school screen ban to encourage more physical activity and face-to-face time amongst its senior students.

Principal Caroline Gray said she had seen a "huge difference" in the students who were spending less time slumped at a screen, and instead engaging with each other.

Collingwood Area School Principal Caroline Gray says she has seen more engagement between her students since the screen ...
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Collingwood Area School Principal Caroline Gray says she has seen more engagement between her students since the screen ban was implemented.

But the move hadn't come without it's own set of challenges. "As far as the teenagers go, the jury is still out. Because they are such creative and compelling thinkers, they are adamant about their [screen-time] rights."

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Overall, the ban was "understood and accepted", despite many students showing resistance to what they perceive as a "dumb move".

But Gray said it was a school's job to help them find a healthy balance, and at times, make choices for them.

"We need to give them time to breathe between lessons. It's about counterbalancing the internet and mobile phones, and we need to practise that ourselves as adults too. We need to own our technology, instead of it owning us."

Another challenge had come with teachers' increased responsibility and discipline around lesson ending and planning.

Gray said it was concerning teenagers had a "crippling need" to receive attention through social relationships by the amount of "likes" they get on Facebook.

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It's vital they're able to discover a sense of self-worth from more fundamental aspects of themselves and their relationships, she said.

"As educators, it's a moral imperative that we help our young people find rhythm, balance and purpose. I'd like other principals and schools to feel they can challenge what is considered the norm because we know it's not working.

"Look at the high levels of anxiety that's getting hard-wired into their lives. We can make better choices as adults, but for teenagers that's becoming the norm.That's part of their day-to-day existence and that's not okay."

She wanted the students look back and remember their experience was a stable, conscious opportunity to learn - "even if right now they don't recognise it".

A paper published by the London School of Economics in 2015 found banning mobile phones in schools resulted in a 6.41 per cent improvement overall in the school's' performance.

Instagram has been ranked as the worst social networking app when it comes to its impact on young people's mental health, according to a 2017 survey published by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK.

 - Stuff.co.nz

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