10 years ago, I stepped through the door to our youth counselling, Cyberhus, for the first time. I was fortunate enough to be offered an internship which basically would be about communicating safe internet behaviour to school children. Cool, was my reaction! And it still is.
In 2007, I had completed my studies in Media Studies where people still spent most of their energy researching young people’s television habits and website use. The position at Cyberhus entailed meeting real young people and focussing on their use of communities. Back then, the counselling of Cyberhus experienced an increase of inquiries dealing with the relatively new online communities. Especially Arto was very popular. Arto was Denmark’s biggest website, counting more than 800,000 active profiles, 100 million page views per month, and more than 80,000 people online at a time. Schools started to contact Cyberhus with the desire to teach children good manners, netiquette, and password security. We familiarised ourselves with terms like IRL-guarantee, net-romances and Arto-marriages, and we were on familiar terms with places such as MSN Messenger, Speek, the Ofir chatrooms, NationX, Skum, Habbo, MySpace, and Foursquare.
The coolest continuation school pupils had gotten themselves a Razr v3 from Motorola – an iconic, flat flip phone which most of all was just .. a phone. Others had inherited their parents’ Nokia Brick. Even decently used, the 3310 could hold power for at least a week. And you could play Snake. Win!
This year relaunches the 3310 as a hipster-retro “back-to-nature” phone to those who outlived FOMO, and now have seen the light in JOMO. Most get nostalgic when speaking of Nokia phones, but few can actually see themselves ditching the smartphone and return to the brick. It is so unbelievable how much has happened with our devices in just 10 years, and how much influence they have had on our interaction.
Mostly for the older students
2007 had us talk about netiquette with mostly the older students. We started talking to students in the lower secondary education; however, it soon began to drift down through the cohorts. When Facebook became commonplace between 2008-2011, we started to teach middle school about all the challenges which arose with this platform: There were plenty of hate-pages, like-hunting, and face-rapes.
Along came small waves of other social media which also created challenges in school. Perhaps you remember Formspring and the Chatroulette? In recent years we have talked quite a lot about visual media such as Instagram, Youtube, Musical.ly, and Snapchat. Especially cases of digital violations and the fascination of Youtube as an unedited window to the world are prevalent. 7-year-old Naja Münster has got 160,000 subscribers on Youtube today. It goes without saying that it places great demands on parents, day care centres, and primary school teachers to articulate the culture of visual media. Today, we regularly make presentations in the 3rd grade, and we also make quite a few presentations for parents of the youngest schoolchildren.
The good story
A lot has happened with the development these past 10 years during which our Danish school service has existed. Basically, I am quite optimistic. We (children as well as adults) have become wiser. While it may seem hopeless when reading the press’ stories on young people’s lack of digital education, a lot of areas are less prevalent than have been the case previously. There are basic issues of safety for which parents and schools, to a much greater extent, prepare their children. The early age of onset of mobile phones indeed entails that children are exposed to adult content way too early; however, it also means that they begin an online life while their parents may influence them, gently pushing them in the right direction. It is our experience that schools very much start to employ digital education in their daily processes rather than treating it as an isolated issue. This is so good; and it is an amazingly exciting development to be part of.
Thank you for 10 years of presentations, workshops, and seminars for children and adults 🙂