In the process of our Dynamiczna Tozsamosc project we have come to define media education as a dialogue between generations on the effects of using (digital) mass media. This definition clearly shows in what form this type of education should be conducted: youngsters and adults should exchange experiences and knowledge on what mass media do to us and what we can do with them.
In the European Kids Online II report we can find what European youngsters currently do when they encounter a problem online: “Overwhelmingly, children tell a friend, followed by a parent, when something online upsets them. Rarely do they tell a teacher or any other adult in a position of responsibility. Their apparent lack of trust in those who may have more expert solutions is a concern.”
It is this gap that we are trying to bridge. As the report tells us: “When something has bothered them on the internet, 36 per cent of children said a parent helped them, 28 per cent a friend and 24 per cent a teacher. Ideally, every child would have at least one person to turn to, but, as noted already in relation to coping, a minority of children has no-one to tell when something upsets them.”
But it is not just about sharing what upsets us. It is also about sharing what helps us and what gives us joy.
The majority of children accepts what their parents tell them on the Internet and do not see this advice as a restriction. The most effective parent strategy for enhancing a child’s safety online is to have common activities online (13% less risk) and to talk with the youngster about what they do online (10% less risk). If parents do not do this and just install virus and spam filters the risk actually increases with 9%.
In our project and during the educational hours we provide at school it occurs that there a very little parents who talk about what youngsters do online and almost none do things together online with them. On the other hand it became clear that many youngsters want to be asked by their parents what they do online and why they do it.
The latest indication that youngsters need and respect the opinion of their parents comes from a US survey: “58% of respondents between ages 13 to 17 said they would like apps to have parental ratings, like the MPAA ratings for movies”. 90% of the parents agreed with them.
But the rating should not be a delegated parent responsibility to a label or a filter for, as we have seen in the case of spam filter, this might actually do more harm than good. The rating should be part of a dialogue between generations on the good and bad effects that using digital mass media have on us.