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. 

Using online services in teaching and learning

Social media and other online services provide a range of tools that can be used to support innovative teaching practices and promote learning. It is recommended that schools specifically address the use of such services for teaching and learning as part of their broader policy development process.

As a general principle, schools should have an understanding of the Terms & Conditions (Ts&Cs) for services that they recommend for use in teaching and learning. For example, social media services typically require users to be a minimum of 13-years-old, although it is not a legal requirement in New Zealand. Note that as each service is different it may be necessary to seek specific advice and guidance in each case.

  • Accessing student accounts
    • Accessing a student’s online account constitutes a search and is not permissible under the Education and Training Act 2020. In addition, account holders will be in breach of a service’s terms and conditions if they disclose their login details or let anyone else access their account.

      Requests for students to reveal the content of their account should be made in such a way that it cannot be construed as a search. Such a request should only be made when the conditions of the legislation are met and should not cause the student to breach any terms or conditions of use.

  • Giving permission to use online content
    • Typically, content uploaded to a social media service belongs to the person who opened the account used to upload information. A social media provider may, however, apply terms and conditions that enable them to use uploaded information for their own purposes, sometimes in perpetuity, even after information or an account has been deleted by the account owner.

  • Developing policy for using online service in teaching and learning
    • It is recommended that schools consider the following.

      Account ownership

      • Ensure that each student or parent has his or her own account.
      • Discourage the practice of sharing account logon details.
      • Ensure that the students are above the minimum allowable age for account holders.
      • Set appropriate boundaries for how an account is used for personal and school use. Encourage students to think about appropriate online behaviour and managing their online profiles.

      Content ownership

      • Make sure there is a clear understanding of the rights of service providers over uploaded content. Decide if this is acceptable in the context of the planned activities.


      • Encourage students to think about their online privacy. For example, ensure students:
        • understand what constitutes personally identifying information, and what information is visible and to whom
        • have an understanding of the way information may be used
        • have an understanding of who may have access their information, now and in the future.
      • Provide guidance about the appropriate level for privacy settings. i.e. Is information being shared between classmates, with families and whānau or will it be available on the web for anyone to find and view?
      • Will private information be shared with third parties such as advertisers?
      • Decide if this is acceptable in the context of the planned activities.
      • Ensure compliance with the service provider’s policies relating to privacy, trust and safety.


      • Develop specific policies on:
        • communication with and the involvement of families, whānau and the wider community
        • online relationships between staff and students.
      • How the internet will used in prevention and incident response activities. For example, consider:
        • creating a school social media presence that encourages participation of students, parents and whānau
        • how to use the internet positively when responding to an incident.