Digital technology: Safe and responsible use in schools
This guide provides principals and teachers with the information to act confidently and in the best interests of students with regard to digital technology.
The legislation and rules
The Education and Training Act 2020 and digital technology
What does the term ‘item’ mean in the legislation in relation to digital technology?
- Digital information comprising one or more of the following elements:
- text e.g. social media post, web page, email
- image e.g. digital photo uploaded to the internet
- audio e.g. music track, voice recording
- video e.g. movie clip taken on a smartphone.
- A digital device such as a smartphone, laptop, camera that can be used to create, edit, communicate, copy or store digital information.
What teachers can and cannot do
Teachers and authorised staff can... Teachers and authorised staff cannot...
Ask a student to:
- reveal the item
- delete the item (if appropriate)
- surrender the digital device on which the item is stored
The record must show:
- the date on which the device was taken
- name of the student from whom the item was taken
- the name of the teacher or staff who took the device.
At the end of the retaining period, the teachers must return the digital device to either:
- the student, or
- the person the item belongs to, or
- pass it on to the student’s parents/caregivers.
- Search through the content of students’ digital devices or online accounts.
- Ask for students’ passwords to access the digital devices on which the item is stored.
- Use physical force against a student.
Summary chart: Surrender and retention of students' digital devices
Key aspects of the legislation
- establishing reasonable grounds
- revealing and surrendering
- retaining and disposing of digital devices
- refusal to reveal an item, produce or surrender digital devices
- restrictions and limitations of teachers’ powers
- the complaints process.
Criteria – reasonable grounds
Section 106(1)(a)(b) of the Education and Training Act 2020 states:
Steps 1 and 2 on the chart summarise the criteria for requiring a student to:
- reveal any information stored in digital form in a computer and other electronic devices.
A belief on reasonable grounds
The legislation defines an item in relation to the digital technology to be:
- any tangible item such as a computer or mobile phone, or
- any digital information stored on a computer and other electronic device.
- observed the student texting or taking photos, or
Revealing and surrendering
Section 106(3)(a)(b) of the Education and Training Act 2020 states:
If reasonable grounds have been established a teacher can require a student to:
- reveal digital items such as text or photos, or
- surrender the smartphone on which the item is stored i.e. confiscating the phone from the student.
- the nature of the text or photos
- whether the student has shared the photos by sending them to other students
- the attitude and the emotional impact on the affected students
- the student’s age and maturity, and
- any other relevant factors.
Retaining and disposing
Section 106(4)(a)(b) of the Education and Training Act 2020 states:
In this example, the teacher may retain the surrendered smartphone for a reasonable period.
Rules 6 and 10 of the Education (Surrender, Retention, and Search) Rules 2013 state:
Section 106(5)(6)(7) of the Education and Training Act 2020 states:
Rule 7 of the Education (Surrender, Retention, and Search) Rules 2013 states:
Refusal to reveal items, produce or surrender digital devices
Section 111(1) of the Education and Training Act 2020 states:
Restrictions and limitations placed on teachers’ powers
Section 109 of the Education and Training Act 2020 states:
- search through the content of student’s digital devices
- ask for students’ passwords to access the digital devices on which the item is stored
- use physical force against a student
The management of an incident involving student’s digital technology should be carried out:
- in a manner that gives the student the greatest degree of privacy and dignity
- away from the view of other students.