In Germany, minister calls for 'Facebook lessons'

BERLIN -- A German politician suggests social networking education has a place in classrooms as well as in homes. Are schools the place to give web safety issues the attention they deserve?
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Written by Shannon Smith, Correspondent (Berlin) on

BERLIN -- Germany's family minister has called for schools to integrate social network education into their curriculums.

"Similar to traffic safety education in primary schools, Facebook and its peers have a place in schools as early as 5th grade," the country's Family Minister Kristina Schroeder told Germany's Bild newspaper in connection with Europe's Safer Internet Day.

Web safety issues have long been a concern on both sides of the Atlantic. But as social network participation begins to reach a critical mass in Germany, questions of internet privacy have drawn more attention than others. This is not least due to former East Germany's painful and dubious history of Stasi spying, which many victims and families are still grappling with.

"As our children and adolescents grow up with the internet, we all bear responsibility - businesses, politicians, schools, parents, but also each and everyone of us," ka-news in Karlsruhe reported Schroeder as saying.

"In order to provide families with the support they would expect, we must resolve the contradiction between personal responsibility and protection. Dialogue amongst the areas of internet politics, business, science and youth protection will help to this end."

An online survey led by ka-news revealed that 39% of readers agreed with Schroeder that schools are the best places to ensure children understand the opportunities and risks inherent in social networking, while 49% of readers felt it is more important to support the same education among parents at home.

Two of those surveyed explained to the news-portal that, while parents may be initially responsible for social media education from a cultural perspective, schools are better equipped as standardized and neutralized contexts in which to discuss the topic.

"Everyone talks about social media," Director of the Regional Office for Media (LfM) Jürgen Brautmeier told ka-news. "But the question is how to create a truly 'social' medium of the internet, where individuals are civilized and respectful to one another?"

"This is only possible through agreements and rules regarding how people, young and old, deal with one another, whether they are constantly or only occasionally online."

According to Bild, 77% of European youths between the ages of 13 and 16 have a profile on a social network, including 72% of same age group in Germany. Meanwhile, an estimated 78% of U.S.-American teenagers have a profile on a social network.

Photo: Flickr/daniel_iversen

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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