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Blogging with Mum, gaming with Dad

How do you teach children and parents to use the Internet safely? A course leader explains.

Text: Séverine Jagmetti, published on 09.12.2015

SWITCH is providing a Christmas donation to support the association zischtig.ch, which offers courses for parents and children on using digital media safely. Joachim Zahn, Project Manager at zischtig.ch, tells us why this work is so important.

SWITCH: Joachim Zahn, as "digital natives", children and young people should be very well acquainted with new media. What exactly can you teach them?
Joachim Zahn: Children and young people often face the same challenges as adults: new developments are appearing all the time, and we normally have no idea what’s running in the background when we use an app. On top of this, children don’t tend to have the patience needed to inform themselves. This is why they are referred to as "digital natives".

Security starts with knowing how to use media properly.

Using age-appropriate lessons, zischtig.ch sheds light on the technology behind apps and makes them easy to understand. We want children to understand exactly what they can do to improve security. With this in mind, we always deal with social aspects as well. Lots of problems with social media and chat services, for example, arise because these types of communication are especially at the mercy of human nature. Security on the Net means being aware of these weaknesses. Children who have this awareness can use the media at their disposal in a more proactive, creative and productive way.

Where does the focus lie in your media courses?
We focus on three areas at the moment, two of them being raising awareness and developing skills for parents and children alike. There’s been a lot of alarmist reporting in the media in recent years: Facebook’s dangerous! Everything’s bad! We read that some young people are too scared to sign up to Twitter, for instance, while others find it too complicated. Our third area of focus is working with parents and guardians of pre-school children. More and more children are being handed tablets and smartphones from a very young age. Adults need to be taught about health and safety aspects in this regard.

How good are parents and teachers when it comes to media education?
There are still a lot who simply ignore it. Others, meanwhile, are too restrictive, preventing children from developing adequate media skills. There are countless points in between these two extremes. Generally speaking, parents focus much too heavily on warning their children about perverted adults using fake identities on the Internet for so-called cybergrooming. They are also very concerned about cyberbullying. We need to make people even more aware that security starts with knowing how to use media properly. There are also a lot of gaps in people’s knowledge of how media can be used creatively and in an age-appropriate way and how adults can lead by example.

Parents and children can learn how their smartphones work. Everyone ends up engaging in dialogue.

SWITCH’s Christmas donation is helping to set up media courses. What form will they take?
We want parents and children to attend our courses together. Our offering is quite diverse. Mothers and daughters can learn how to keep a blog, fathers and daughters can learn how to program simple games, mothers and sons can learn about the creative possibilities of a tablet, parents and children can learn how their smartphones work. Everyone ends up engaging in dialogue. They learn how to use digital media for their enjoyment and try out new things together. They learn together how to use devices and apps safely. The teaching has to be easy to follow and light-hearted. Learning should be fun.

Our first series of courses for children, young people and parents will be held in the first half of 2016. We plan to use libraries, community centres, town squares and schools.

Website: zischtig.ch

Photo: zischtig.ch

Joachim Zahn

Joachim Zahn has been studying digital media and how they are used in day-to-day family life since 1989. He is a trained social and cultural educator with a Master of Science in social work. Besides his work as Project Manager at zischtig.ch, he teaches Media Education and New Technologies at universities of applied sciences in German-speaking Switzerland.

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