Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in schools guide

There are many benefits in learning with digital technologies but there are also challenges and potential risks for students and schools. Find information on creating a safe digital environment in our guide for safe and responsible use of digital technology.

About the guide

Many schools are using digital technologies like the internet, laptops and tablets to quickly, easily and cost-effectively connect students with a huge range of services and resources. All schools want a safe digital environment, so we have developed guidance to help your school achieve this.

The 'Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in schools' guide provides principals and teachers with the information to act confidently and in the best interests of students with regard to digital technology. 

It’s designed to help your school:

  • understand how young people use digital technology
  • deal with or prevent problems with its use
  • understand the law on what you can and can’t do.

How the guide can help

Searching for and confiscating devices

The guide is a companion to the surrender and retention of property and searches guidelines, which are designed to help your school if faced with a situation where:

  • the safety of your students, staff or school is compromised
  • you’re considering searching or confiscating student property.

See more on the surrender and retention of property and searches page:

Guidelines for the surrender and retention of property and searches

Section 4: The legislation and the rules

Develop a safe-use strategy for your school

The guide can help you develop a safe-use strategy that works for your school community.

Your strategy should contain:

  • prevention strategies guiding young people’s learning about acceptable use of technology
  • processes for communicating with teachers, students and parents so everyone is clear about what’s expected and acceptable use of digital technology in your school.

For example, one way to get everyone's buy-in on the safe 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 strategy could involve setting up a small committee with oversight for safe digital technology use. The committee could:

  • implement school-wide policies
  • implement parent education programmes about digital technology
  • make sure the subject stays front and centre of your school’s digital technology programme.

Section 3: Overview of prevention and incident response

Managing incidents and challenges

Your safe-use strategy won’t necessarily eliminate incidents. The guide contains suggestions on how your school could deal with different scenarios.

You should 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.

If something does happen, focus on minimising distress and harm to the individuals impacted and less on the technology itself.

Section 4: Responding to digital incidents

Where to get more help


Netsafe helped put this guide together and can help your school:

  • proactively manage digital safety
  • manage incidents.

The Netsafe Schools Programme and the Netsafe Kit website provides schools with information, advice and tools to manage their online safety programme.

NetSafe schools – Netsafe(external link)

NetSafe also provides direct support and consultancy services to help schools manage incidents, plan and set strategies, and engage the school community.

Incident support – NetSafe(external link)

N4L (Network for Learning)

N4L provides quality ultra-fast broadband connections. It offers uncapped data, online content filtering and network security services.

Faster, safer internet – N4L(external link)

ICT Helpdesk

Our ICT Helpdesk provides technical support to schools and advice on Ministry of Education ICT policies.

ICT Helpdesk

New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA)

Phone: 0800 782 435(external link)

Voice of school boards – NZSTA(external link)

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