“It’s not healthy for students to come to school and just to sit down and be glued to a digital device,” Cashmere High School principal Joe Eccleton said.
“I think it is important that they are moving about and they’re getting fresh air, they’re interacting with other people – they’re communicating, they’re developing those interpersonal skills that are so important in life.”
He and his staff will now have to police around 2300 pupils to make sure there are no phones in sight during the breaks.
“If students do take their phones out they will be confiscated,” Eccleton said.
Kiwi kids were recently ranked 5th in the world for being distracted by digital devices.
The Government says removing them is part of their immediate plan to lift student achievement.
University of Auckland’s Dr Samantha Marsh has studied the impact of screens on children and fully supports the new rules.
“I think that schools are a place where kids go to learn and where they go to implement deep friendships,” Dr Marsh said.
“Even as a parent or adult we’re not very good at ignoring our phone when it beeps so why do we think that kids aren’t going to get distracted by their cellphone?”
She believes removing smartphones from schools won’t solve all the problems but admits it’s “a really good start”.
“It gives kids the opportunity for the seven or so hours a day to be kids again and to learn the skills that developing brains are meant to learn,” Dr Marsh said.
As part of her research, she’s come across disturbing stories about children’s phone addiction at home.
“Boys not making it to the bathroom in time because they are so engaged in their game,” she explained.
“One parent talked about how her daughter hit her in the face when she tried to take her phone off her.”
With the expectation that most schools will be implementing the change from term 1, it means the new school year could look and feel a little more old-school.