Protecting minors in the media and guidelines on media content
The use of digital media provides us with new opportunities but also entails new risks. The opportunities significantly outweigh the risks. However, the risks associated with digital media are particularly prevalent for children and young people. Swisscom is determined not to leave parents to shoulder the responsibility of handling these risks alone. Swisscom supports parents and teachers by providing a wide range of information, resources and products.
Children and young people who disclose private or even intimate information on social web platforms are often unaware of the repercussions this may have. Privacy therefore plays a prominent role in the documentation and information provided on media protection for minors.
The legal obligations governing the protection of minors in the media were fully complied with in 2013. Under the terms of the Swiss Federal Penal Code, it is forbidden for providers to offer content of a pornographic nature to persons under the age of 16. Swisscom is rigorous in its interpretation of the regulations of the Ordinance on Telecommunications Services regarding the blocking of value-added services. For example, no adult content whatsoever has been offered on the Swisscom information portal since 2009.
Since 2008, the Industry Initiative of the Swiss Association of Telecommunications (asut) for Improved Youth Media Protection and the Promotion of Media Skills in Society has published a list of youth media protection measures in addition to the legal requirements, which Swisscom has pledged to comply with. These include the provision of Internet filters, the obligation to actively inform customers, willingness to engage in dialogue with committed organisations and the designation of a youth media protection officer.
Swisscom’s efforts to protect minors in the media exceed the legal requirements, in particular due to its implementation of the following measures:
- Age limit for access to certain services (value-added services) was voluntarily increased to 18
- No adult content whatsoever is included in the video-on-demand offerings on Swisscom TV or on the information portal
- Additional channel blocking via PIN on Swisscom TV
- Providing youth media protection with the new “replay” TV function
- Providing FSK age rating recommendations for all video-on-demand films
- Exceptionally stringent requirements apply to third-party providers of value-added services
The Telecommunication Services Ordinance requires telecommunication service providers to disclose information on the existence of a barring set at least once a year. A barring set blocks access to chargeable value-added services on specific lines. Swisscom sends its customers a bill enclosure every year to inform them about this free service. The barring set is automatically activated for young subscribers under the age of 18 and can only be deactivated with the consent of their parent or legal guardian.
Promoting media skills
The technical and process-related measures for protecting minors in the media significantly reduce the number of risks faced by children and young people when using the media. At the same time, Swisscom considers the promotion of media skills among children and young people to be the best method of further reducing the risks. Swisscom has therefore been involved for a number of years with a wide range of programmes aimed at helping children and young people use digital media sensibly and in moderation:
- Media courses as part of the Academy training programme: The course is held on parents’ evenings and as part of in-service training sessions for teachers. The aim of the course is to raise the participants’ awareness of the risks and to make recommendations on the use of media at home and in school. In total, Swisscom held more than 700 media skills events throughout Switzerland in 2013.
- The JAMES study: The JAMES study investigates the way in which media is used by young people aged between 12 and 19. After an initial run in 2010, Swisscom carried out the JAMES study once again in 2012 in cooperation with Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW). Four detailed studies were carried out in 2013 which addressed the following questions: What effect does the use of media have on the relationship between parents and children? Is there a connection between media use and school grades? Various providers offer media courses to schools: How effective are these courses? How do young people handle the protection of their private data in social networks? (publication: March 2014)
- The findings from the JAMES study allow conclusions and measures to be formulated in the fields of science and politics based on reliable, scientific data. The recurring study will allow trends and changes in the media usage behaviour of young people to be identified as of 2014. With this study, Swisscom is bridging a gap in research that has existed for a long time, particularly as surveys into media usage among young people were not consistently carried out before 2010.
National programme for the promotion of media skills
In summer 2010, the Swiss federal government set up a programme aimed at improving the media skills of children and young people. The Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO) is responsible for implementing the programme, which is set to run until 2015. As the principal partner of the programme, Swisscom is confident that by working together the public and private sectors can do significantly more to promote media skills. Swisscom supports the programme by providing both financial resources and communication services.
Media courses for parents, teaching staff and pupils
Swisscom has been expanding its course offerings since 2012 to promote media skills. In addition to the information events for parents and teaching staff, it has since also offered a modular course for secondary school pupils (year 7 to year 9) and a flexible module for intermediate school pupils (year 4 to year 6). Teachers can choose from a range of different modules dealing with general media usage behaviour, legal issues on the Internet, social networks, safe surfing and the new issue of cyberbullying. Swisscom appoints a dedicated course instructor for the participating classes. There was once again huge demand for the classes in 2013. The experience and feedback gained from the events were extremely positive, and over 95% of participants said they would recommend the events to others.
A study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the media courses. The results of the study were presented at the media skills symposium held as part of the federal programme on young people and media (see above, “National programme for the promotion of media skills”). According to the study director from the Distance-Learning University of Applied Sciences (Fernfachhochschule Schweiz (FFHS)), the study documents the effectiveness of Swisscom media courses. The study is set to be expanded in 2014 and will focus on investigating long-term effects.
The Swisscom Academy has been teaching people how to use mobile devices and the Internet since 2005. Courses are offered on a daily basis at the training centres in Berne, Basel, Lausanne, Lucerne, Geneva and Zurich. In addition, four specially equipped Academy buses visit around 70 towns and villages across Switzerland every year. In 2013, 14,500 people attended courses on how to use modern communications media. Since the launch of Swisscom Academy, close to 254,000 people in Switzerland have taken advantage of the courses it offers. The courses are aimed at the general population in Switzerland and are open to customers and non-customers alike. Through this campaign, Swisscom is playing an important role in continually reducing the digital generation gap.