Creating an opposite to the digital world

11.09.2020 - 15:27 | Lina Ehlert

At the symposium for media education in the Pestalozzi Children’s Village, experts held classes focussing on media literacy. In this interview, Florian Karrer, Head of Radio Projects and Co-organizer of the symposium, discusses challenges, dangers and solutions.

Panel discussion with Maya Götz, Sarah Genner, Nina Waldhier and Martin Hofmann.

Is this where the symposium comes into play?
During the radio projects in the schools, we noticed that the teachers were facing a sizeable challenge in the form of social media. Children have access to digital devices in lessons at an ever earlier age. This has an enormous influence on the school routine. Furthermore, 90 per cent of youngsters spend several hours online each day. We have to face up to this reality as a society. Our hope is that this symposium will raise awareness, thereby helping to protect children.

What challenges do digital media present for teachers?
The biggest challenge is probably the omnipresence of the smartphone, particularly from high school level and up. Teachers therefore need to work out how to deal with this. Smartphones should be integrated into lessons in a meaningful way, and there should be rules that promote interaction. The children and teenagers often know much more about using smartphones than the adults. Many teachers find this rather overwhelming.

What sort of dangers do you mean?
At the symposium we want to encourage the teachers to take a proactive approach to media literacy. Ultimately, the internet also contains dangerous content that children and young people must be protected from. This means both adults and youngsters must be made aware of the risks.

Florian Karrer, head of children and youth radio.

What sort of dangers do you mean?
One speaker, Maya Götz – a media scientist and teacher at the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television in Munich – spoke very impressively at the symposium about the role models that have become accessible through various media. This includes, for example, skewed perceptions of male and female body images, which are most notably propagated in TV series and films. Normal people cannot remotely match the body proportions that are shown – that would be unhealthy. Yet these images are portrayed in the media as ideals. On a psychological level, these body images give young people a constant sense of being inadequate. It is also possible to compromise someone very quickly on social media. Images of injuries can be shared among huge numbers of people with enormous impacts. And the internet does not forget.

How can teachers promote media literacy in lessons? 
Teachers can try to create an analogue opposite to the digital world. This could be an experiment, for example, in which the entire class chooses not to use their smartphones for a week. The class can then reflect on this experience as a group. In the absence of a smartphone, the same issues usually come up: identity, self-esteem and anxiety. «I can’t contact my friends, I’m not in the chat, I’m missing out.»

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