Digital media is now a part of our lives. But especially children need safe time together on the Internet. It starts with parents and grandparents knowing how and where their children and grandchildren surf the Internet.
Question: What media do children use the most?
Yvonne Gerikk: This is very age dependent. For younger people, YouTube and maybe even TikTok are video-related platforms. As they get older, Facebook and Instagram are exciting. The media, where social exchange is at the forefront.
Are parents allowed to monitor or control their children’s activities on social media?
Up to a certain age it is even necessary. Because the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) only allows consent to the processing of personal data at the age of 16 years. Parental consent must be obtained in advance if you wish to use such platforms.
A special feature of social media is that users are not only consumers but also producers. What are the dangers for children here?
Of course, you make yourself more vulnerable when you reveal things about yourself. This increases the risk potential. It depends on what you share. I think a good guideline is always the question: Would I also post what I share in school? Would that make me uncomfortable, or am I okay with that?
Judging when you are young is not always easy. There is a good example from Sarah-Lee Heinrich from Green Youth. Immediately after her election, old messages surfaced that did not reflect her well.
The example shows: Nothing is lost. This understanding that content can be accessed and found as long as the Internet has existed has not yet been fully reached.
How to deal with bad or malicious reactions?
It is very important that you as a parent or grandparent stand by and classify it and say, ‘Sometimes it’s not real people behind it, but some robots or people who only specialize in writing such unkind comments. Do not let it go that way for you. ‘ But it requires that the adults have a certain level of competence.
What content are children confronted with as consumers on social media?
This is also very age dependent. The younger ones are often followed even closer by their parents. Less use media that are more child-friendly or specifically aimed at children. So when they get older and also come in contact with social media, they can also get in touch with potentially dangerous content – just like in real life. Hatred, violence, pornography and also satire and irony are difficult for children to understand.
So take a preventative effort?
In any case, it is important to accompany and pick up children where they are, what they are interested in. There is no need to explain social media to a five-year-old if they are not interested in it yet. But as soon as the first interest shows up, I think it’s good to take the kids by the hand and show them their potential. What is meant is how it all works and also what dangers may lurk.
What is “media literacy”?
We understand this to mean dealing with the media in a self-determined, critical and responsible way. And that you can use the media, but also produce and consume with them – with a reflected perspective.
Sometimes we distinguish between basic and advanced competence. The basic idea is that we first explain to children what media really is. Classic media such as books, newspapers and radio are as much a part of this as digital media, i.e. the internet, computers and so on. The good thing about it is that you get a holistic view of the media and thus can make the concept of media understandable.
Have we missed anything in this regard?
I think we, especially in schools and institutions, have not kept up with this change enough. All too often, it is still said that smartphones and tablets are not allowed in school. They are daily companions. And it is very important that you handle them competently. Therefore, I think there should be at least one school subject that explicitly deals with media use.