Digital technology guide for schools

All schools want a safe digital environment. To do that, schools sometimes need to search students for digital devices and even confiscate them. The guide to digital technology tells school staff what they can and can’t do, and it gives some ideas about how to create a safe digital environment.

The guide to digital technology and what’s in it

This guide:

  1. Explains teachers’ legal rights when dealing with digital devices.
    Staff who suspect a student of digital misuse can ask them to surrender the device. They can also retain the device for a reasonable time. But they can only do this if they have reasonable grounds to believe misuse has happened.
    School staff cannot search the content of a student’s digital device or ask for a student’s password to any device to access the content.
  2. Gives general guidance about the best ways to manage digital devices and create a safe school environment.

This guide is a companion to the Guidelines for the Surrender and Retention of Property and Searches, which was released in January 2014.

The guide helps schools understand how young people use digital technology. It helps schools deal with or prevent problems with the use of digital technology and explains the law on what schools can and can’t do. The guide contains scenarios and suggestions on how schools could deal with them and advises on the digital technology support available.

Promoting the safe use of digital technology in schools

  • Develop a safe use strategy that works for your school. Effective prevention strategies guiding young people’s learning about acceptable use of technology. Blanket technical protections, such as content filtering, are not nearly as effective.
  • As part of your safe use strategy, communicate widely about what’s expected with the use of digital technology in your school. Talk to teachers, students and parents so that everyone’s on the same page in terms of their understanding, what’s acceptable and what’s not.
  • One way to get everyone’s buy-in on the acceptable use of digital technology is to ask them to sign an “acceptable use” form. This should contain helpful and guiding information and contain what is and is not, acceptable digital practice. This can be revisited and revitalised when required.
  • Your school’s safe use strategy could involve setting up a small committee with oversight for safe digital technology use. The committee could establish policies, run school-wide and parent education programmes about digital technology and ensure the subject stays front and centre of your school’s digital technology programme.
  • Your safe use strategy won’t necessarily eliminate incidents. If something does happen focus more on minimising distress and harm to the student and less on the technology itself. Focusing on the behaviour is more likely to prevent a recurrence than simply confiscating the device.
  • Make sure that your schools digital technology is located in open plan areas or classrooms where the computer screens are visible to all. Ensuring everyone can see each other’s screens will reduce opportunities for users to access potentially harmful sites that have inappropriate or adult material.
  • Develop a response plan that can guide you in the event an incident involving a pupil and the inappropriate use of digital technology. The response plan could include tips ranging from what to say when a reporter calls about the incident to dealing with a full contingent of news media staking out your school. Your media response plan could be used for other incidents that might arise, not necessarily involving digital technology.
  • We recommend that you contact NetSafe or the New Zealand School Trustees Association directly for further help, advice and guidance if you are confronted with a problem. They can provide more detailed information about incident response and technical issues. Contact details are:

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