Today’s children are growing up in an increasingly digital world. This presents opportunities, but also risks. On the one hand, UPC wants to make people aware of the dangers of material which is illegal or harmful to children and young people. On the other hand, parents and teachers need to be supported in protecting children and young people from age-inappropriate content.
UPC supports the new industry initiative for the protection of young people in the media published by asut. Together with our competitors we support measures to protect young people when using digital media.
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As well as advice on how parents and educators can improve children’s and young people’s media literacy, in the following guide you will also find information about how UPC products can be made childproof (guide available in German, French or Italian only):
What impact is television having on your child?
Television plays an important role in children’s lives. Various studies and investigations advise parents to reduce the amount of time their children spend watching television. Did you know that parents of children under two years of age are often advised not to let their children watch any television at all? A ban is not always the right option, however. Think about the role you want television to play in your child’s overall development.
We hope that the tips and advice on these pages will help you get an impression of the impact that television has on small children and that you will recognise that television can also have a positive effect on your child’s development.
Television can play a necessary role in the lives of young children. Although some media researchers and paediatricians recommend that parents reduce the amount of time that their children spend watching television – they recommend that children under two years of age do not watch any television at all – it may be better to think about whether television is suitable for your child’s overall development or not.
Communicate to your child that television can be an active experience instead of a passive one. Repeat words or sentences that you hear during a programme and encourage your child to dance and sing with the characters, or talk to them about what they can see and hear.
Read online reviews or printed media to find out which television programmes are suitable for your child’s age group and level of development. Instead of simply hoping to find something suitable by chance, have recorded programmes and suitable videos ready that children will enjoy, that are educational, and that will fire their imagination. Turn the television off when the programme is over.
Small children often copy what they see and hear on television. Ask your child questions which will encourage them to come up with their own dialogue or to modify the plot. A conversation about television might begin as follows: What happened at the start of the film? Which character would you like to be? If you could think up a new story with the same characters, how would your story end?
Limit the amount of time your child spends watching television. By doing so you will make sure that they are still able to spend time with you, play with their friends, and discover the world around them. Use the musical aspects of a programme or the physical attributes of a character to encourage your child to dance, jump and clap, instead of simply sitting still and watching.
Make television into an audio drama: Ask your child to turn away from the television while you watch a familiar programme or film together. If a familiar character starts to talk or sing, ask your child to identify him or her simply by listening.
5) Avoid programmes in which characters resolve conflicts through violence
If your child sees that a character solves a problem by hitting, kicking or biting, tell them that that is the wrong thing to do. Suggest alternative actions: «Instead of hitting his sister, the boy could also have asked her to stop annoying him.»
If your child imitates things that a character on television does, you should remind them that even if cartoon characters simply get up and walk away after accidents, jumping from a swing can really hurt.
If a programme or a film scares your child, reassure them with a cuddly toy, a hug or something to drink. Physical affection is often more comforting than reassuring words.
At the age of six or seven years, children begin to understand that people have different opinions. At around eight or nine years, they begin to discover that people have an «inner life» – that is to say that they may think one thing, but do another thing. Both developments will allow your child to encounter television – and other forms of storytelling – in a new way.
Instead of simply soaking it up, your child can watch television actively. How? By learning about what they see and hear, and by asking questions. Even if you don’t have an answer to everything, think out loud and talk to your child about the programme that you are watching together. By doing so, you are showing your child that television programmes do not always have to be one-sided. Each programme is in reality the result of a number of decisions taken by people during the production stages.
Use the control offered to you by a video recorder. Or use the commercial breaks to ask «why» and «how», instead of asking yes or no questions. I wonder why the scriptwriter wanted the actor to say that? Did you notice that the scary music began at that precise moment?
Your child may look for role models. If you don’t ask your child what they regard as brave, admirable or clever, you won’t find out why they are attracted to certain characters. Who do we know who does that? Is this character really admirable or does he just look cool?
Make your child aware that all pictures on TV, on websites or on buses are created by people. Come full circle by explaining that they can create their own pictures. Let them take photos, paint, draw or doodle – everything that will encourage them to tell stories using pictures from their own imagination. Keep pencils, coloured pens and other drawing materials close by, so that your child can express ideas that they come up with while watching television. This is the first step towards helping your child understand the value of visual arts for themselves.
Your child may not know how directors use camera angles, digital animations, stuntmen, miniature models, make-up, costumes and other means to create a fictional story. Talk to them about these elements. Ask out loud how different programmes were made.
Teach your child to select television programmes in advance instead of zapping aimlessly from channel to channel. (Try to do the same thing yourself!) Try to get your child to take an interest in long-term projects – a collection, a puzzle, a collector’s album – that they can turn to when they are bored. If the project requires a table or a special shelf to store the materials, make space in a place where your child will not be disturbed.
Ask your child questions such as: Which music is being played – and why? How do the voices of the different characters vary? How is silence used? (Possible answers include: to create tension, to show that someone is deaf, to change the mood.)
Find out how many voices or accents, how many types of clothing, or how many places you and your child can identify. This is also a good opportunity to talk about stereotypes; who is shown on television? Who is missing?
Make your child aware of when a character tries to solve their problems by hitting, kicking or biting. Ask them about other ways of resolving conflict, such as negotiation or discussion. Explain that violence almost always has consequences, but that these are rarely shown in cartoons.
When it comes to television, the most useful skill you can teach your child at this age is to ask questions. Make it clear to them that all television programmes are created by people, so that they do not view what they see on the screen as the objective truth. Advertisers use TV series because they increase product sales. Directors choose a particular storyline to tell a gripping story. And producers can influence the cutting process to reach a broader public and achieve economic success.
The more you encourage your child to ask how, why and for what purpose a programme was produced, the greater their understanding of TV formats will be.
Start a conversation by asking your child about their feelings («Would you like to be this character?»), whether they think the programme reflects their life («Do you know someone who looks or behaves like that?») or how much they know about TV production («Do you think that was the actor or a body double?»). Contradict the television if a programme does not make sense or if an advertising message is unrealistic.
Use simple film vocabulary for when characters are talking («speech is called dialogue»), where they live (houses, schools and workplaces are «film sets») and how they act («main storyline, sub-plot, etc.»). Point our recurring elements: canned laughter or a live audience in sitcoms; sub-plots which are spun out into dramas lasting several hours; unrealistic elements in «reality» shows or a dominant point of view in a documentary film.
3) Tell your child about the close link between TV scheduling and advertising
Ask your child to think about the appeal of a programme and the products that are promoted in the commercial breaks. For a particular advert, you could ask: «Who do you think is watching this programme? What is the marketer trying to sell? What feelings does this advert trigger?»
If your child shows an interest in something specific in a programme, encourage them to learn more about whatever it is by reading a book or visiting a website on the subject. To find out whether a claim made in a programme is correct, they could conduct an experiment or ask a teacher.
If you don’t ask them, you will never find out what your child thinks about things that they see and hear on television. Find out whether they have developed an unrealistic view of how people look or act, what they consider to be the best way of resolving conflict, and what relationship they have to actors from films and adverts.
If your child zaps aimlessly from channel to channel when they are bored, suggest that they actively do something: They could write a letter to the producers or the channel about what they like or don’t like about a programme or channel. Help your child to come up with a list of alternative activities instead of letting television become a habit. And don’t forget to come up with a list for yourself!
Choose a time – perhaps during your family holiday – to skip programmes that you usually watch. Talk about this experience together. Together, think about how you can change your family’s television habits.
If your child’s physical activity level decreases as a result of television, make your everyday life more active. If your child has their own television in their room, move it to a family room.
Transform your child from a couch potato into a film lover by teaching them the technical language of film and television. Your child will discover that there is no «right»way of interpreting a story or an image. The value that a person draws from a programme or a film depends on who they are, what they know about the world and what they know about the art form.
With your help, your child will learn that living in a visual culture requires them to decode messages. That is much better than accepting these images at face value.
Point our recurring elements: canned laughter or a live audience in sitcoms; sub-plots which are spun out into dramas lasting several hours; unrealistic elements in «reality» shows or a dominant point of view in a documentary film. Instead of zapping in the commercial breaks, switch off the sound and talk to your child.
Pop culture can determine what is cool and what it means to be accepted. Talk to your child about media messages. Start your conversation by asking your child what they feel (do you envy this character?), whether the programme reflects their life (do you know someone who looks or acts like that?) and what they know (do you think that could happen in real life?).
By drawing attention to contradictions if a programme does not make sense, or if a commercial makes unrealistic claims. This way, your child will learn that not everything on television reflects the truth.
Teach your child about the economic background to programming by drawing their attention to product placements. Why do companies use television programmes to market their products? (so that the viewer links brands with popular actors; to create brand awareness). You can ask questions about a particular advert: Who do you think is watching this programme? What is the marketer trying to sell? What feelings does this advert evoke?
If you watch a film at home, rewind a particular scene and watch it again. Find out whether the scene was important by discussing the following questions: How did this scene contribute to the development of the plot? Was it intended to create a particular atmosphere? What did it tell us about the main character?
Ask your child where they acquired their knowledge about other countries. Ask questions about how the story is told, the «facts», the quotes and the «experts» when you watch the news. Draw links between the way in which a message is presented and the thoughts and feelings that it triggers in you and your child. Explain how bias can influence journalism. Challenge your child to obtain more detailed information instead of simply believing the first source of information.
In the same way that not everything we see on television corresponds with reality, not everything on the Internet is true, either. It reflects opinions, news and interpretations that are constantly changing. Teach your child to ask where this information comes from.
Talk to your child about the discoveries that they make online. Let them know that there are also lots of alternatives if content is poor or difficult to understand.
Your child should also know about the value of their personal data. This means that your child protects their own privacy and respects others’ privacy. They should also know that in the virtual world there are people who pretend to be someone other than who they are in reality.
The numerous computer games available for small children may have convinced you that there is no age limit on the educational value of the computer. Like other toys and devices in your child’s surroundings, the computer is most beneficial when used alongside natural play, however.
Make sure that the PC does not influence your child’s development needs. Children need time for creative play, for example, and to be able to share their inventions and discoveries. They need adults like you to take part in their play. You would not want your child to stare at the computer screen for hours on end, but would instead want them to make the most of their time.
Although it is tempting to walk away when your child is engaged in an activity, take the time to ask your child questions about their activities on the PC. Get your child used to thinking about what is happening on the screen by asking questions such as: How do you play this game? What happens when you move in that direction? Which character is talking at the moment?
Always switch the computer off again and encourage your child to play outside, to paint and make things, to look at books, sing songs, to dance, make up stories or embark on a journey of discovery.
Drawing pictures and telling stories are ways for your child to express things that they may not be able to express through everyday conversation. Your child may want to share what they have done with someone or keep it to themselves. Both answers are OK.
Look out for games that have a discovery element and that allow your child to play with others and not against others. Encourage your child to play with friends and siblings; discourage them from resorting to video games when they are on their own. Play along with them, then you will get to know the game yourself.
Even simple decisions – choosing a character, choosing the background for a picture, choosing a game – are good opportunities for your child. If your child gets bored during an activity, suggest something new; it can be a different level of the same game or an entirely new game. (If you do not point them out, your child will not recognise that they have choices.)
The choice of program does not have to be limited by your child’s friends saying that a game is «only for boys» or «only for girls». Talk to your child about how it is important to take turns with the mouse when playing on the computer.
If your child has an idea, they will want to follow it through. This exploration plays a crucial role in your child’s development. A computer can encourage them to do this.
Like libraries, the Internet is also a fantastic place for your child to discover and learn. While your child is using the Internet for homework, you can help them form good habits – such as the habit of asking critical questions. By accustoming them to ask questions instead of copying and simply accepting information, you are teaching your child that there is not just one expert, one single source and one single way of doing something. By using the Internet, you can also teach them to organise information and develop successful search strategies.
5 ways to make the most of computers
Librarians know how to sort information. They can help your child learn how to use the Internet for research, and to find the answers to questions.
If your child uses an electronic picture from the Internet, let them write their own caption to describe what is going on in the picture – and what it means. Teach them to state their sources if they use material – a quote, a picture or an idea – that is not their own. The usual way to do this is by giving the address of the website from which the information originates.
Help your child become a skilled Internet user. Show them sources of information about Internet security, such as CyberSmart. When you talk about the importance of personal information, warn your child not to disclose their name, address, telephone number or other details from which someone could identify them on the Internet. Show them how to select and use a user name – and never to disclose their real name. Do not let your child take part in online competitions.
By noting down a few research pointers for your child, you can encourage them to explore their interests. Good starting points include:
You can visit these sites (and any others your child is interested in) yourself and add the sites you both like – and that you are happy for them to visit – to your favourites.
Ask key questions:
Children between nine and 13 years have become a lucrative market in recent years. Protect yourself from the increasingly aggressive advertising targeted at this age group by encouraging your child to think for themselves.
To entice your child, advertisers create ads targeted at emotions rather than at critical thinking. Advertising is intended not just to sell products, but also to sell feelings. Advertisers want to trigger your child’s desire to be clever and popular. Their strategy is to make your child scared of being left out and to create the illusion that their product will make them feel better again.
It is up to you to influence the way in which your child decodes the messages it receives from the market. Help them learn to analyse advertising astutely and to develop self-confidence. Children between the ages of nine and 13 have become a lucrative market in recent years. Protect yourself from the increasingly aggressive advertising targeted at this age group by encouraging your child to think for themselves.
Get your child to ask: Where does this information come from? How does the information on this website – its text, its images, its overall impression – influence my view? Which standpoint is presented? What information is missing? Are particular people and opinions not presented?
Talk to your child about sites that look appealing, but which do not clearly show where the information originates from. So as not to fall into a trap, first note down the website address and then look for more detailed background information: Follow the «About» and other «Who we are» links to find out which people or which group created this website.
Show your child websites for uncovering misinformation and fraud. Enter the term «urban legends» into a search engine and you will find sites which debunk famous rumours. The virus and hoax section of the Symantec Anti-Virus Research Center offers help with rumours about computer viruses.
Search engines are increasingly using «pay-for-placement» models whereby preference is shown towards paying companies. Show your child where the paid rankings appear on the screen and how they can look out for lists that relate more closely to their search. Show them the variety of search engines available.
By discovering websites and software programmes together with your child, you will get to know the online functions that appeal to your child. This is easier if the computer is in a room used by the entire family instead of in a separate bedroom.
Whether your child visits a commercial website or writes to a friend online, they should never give out their name, address, telephone number or other information from which they could be identified. Show them how to use a user name instead of their real name. Warn your child to talk to you first before they register for competitions.
Internet filters block access to sites that are unsuitable for children. No Internet filter is foolproof, however – every product has characteristics that may or may not meet your family’s needs – but you can use tools such as GetNetWise and online reviews such as those on CNET to help you with your decision.
The anonymity provided by the Internet makes it easy for people to pretend to be someone else. Make sure your child knows that. You can restrict his or her online contact to the people he or she knows in real life. The Think U Know page offers a crash course in online chat and instant messaging for both parents and children
Talk to your child about what they find on the Internet. Make them aware that unsuitable pages can come up on the screen without any fault on their part. Get your child into the habit of telling you about reprehensible content and topics that you have prohibited.
Make sure that the time your child spends in front of the computer does not impact on time for friends, family, physical activity and school work.
Your challenge is to get your child to understand that websites may be misleading or unreliable. That can be difficult if your child is a technological whiz-kid and you are not.
Ultimately, your child will see that there is not just one source of information and that to really understand a topic, they will have to comb through various sources. It is not enough simply to cite one source or to say: «I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.» If you want to form an independent opinion, you have to challenge statements and check where these statements come from.
Ask your child: «Where does this information come from?» «How does the information on this website (text, images, overall impression) influence my opinion?» «Which standpoint is presented?» «What information is missing?» «Are particular people and opinions not presented?» «Is someone trying to sell me something?»
Click on «About» and other «Who we are» links; these will provide you with background information about websites. Talk to your child about the gap between proven facts and unchecked statements. You could say: Which research is available to back up this point of view? How do you know that?
Comparing websites can show the limits of one side and expose bias. This can also reveal the site’s sponsor and show how the content is influenced by this.
4) Talk to your child about what something may look like and whether it can be trusted
Appealing is not the same as reliable: A well designed website is no guarantee for reliable information. Help your child understand that web designers can create a striking design, clear navigation and convincing recommendations without offering real content.
Pages which debunk urban legends can help dispel rumours and claims that are too good to be true and «news» about supposed computer viruses. Enter «urban legends» in a search engine such as Google and visit the virus and hoax area of Symantec’s Anti-Virus Research Center.
Pseudo-truths about health – information found quickly on the Internet – can be useful, but often they lack context or background. Help your child investigate health topics. Instead of being satisfied with the first answer to a search query, visit a number of sources and weigh up different views.
Do you know what games your child is playing?
As they get older, children often spend more time playing video games than on other activities such as watching television. It is understandable why children over a certain age feel drawn to video games: they require particular skills for these, have to understand the games and apply complex rules. That is exciting for children who are becoming increasingly interested in the world around them and their place in it.
Many popular video games use violence, unrealistic images of women and men, and the characters often do not represent different cultures. But you can make sure that your child learns something from such games. Talk to your child about these games, help them understand what they are seeing and experiencing, and expressly question any negative portrayals. If you take an active interest in the games that your child enjoys playing, you will gain a valuable insight into what your child is spending their time doing.
Increasingly often, products and businesses are targeting children. No matter how hard you try, you cannot stop your child from seeing adverts and appealing products. But you can make sure that your child is less influenced by them.
The aim is that your child thinks and does not want to have everything it sees straight away. That is not always easy, however, and you will need a lot of patience and creativity. But don’t give up because as your child gets older, they will more easily be able to understand that they can’t always get what they want straight away.
In this video animation, parents are given eight tips on the topics of privacy in social networks, online games, dangers on the web, online friends, giving out personal data and online contact with strangers.
The Swiss Confederation’s Reporting and Analysis Centre for Information Assurance, MELANI, provides information about risks on the Internet and reports on the current situation:
For reporting cybercrime and suspicious websites
Overview page on the use of new technologies by children:
Helpful site which provides support for parents on the subject of media literacy:
Information about media literacy provided by the Zurich University of Teacher Education::
Stiftung Kinderschutz Schweiz: