Danish children and young people lack knowledge when it comes to online privacy. Although many have basic knowledge of notions such as digital footsteps and ethics of data, many misunderstandings remain.
"Children and young people want to be safe online. As adults, we need to be prepared to help and not stand by idly, when it comes to their digital well-being and personal data. The school system carries the responsibility as well" said the Chairperson of the Danish Media Council and Assistant Professor at Aarhus University, Stine Liv Johansen.
"We are aware that children and young people in Denmark are challenged when it comes to their knowledge of online privacy in relation to personal data, digital footprints, and so on. Therefore, we have created a teaching material that is meant to make children and young people reflect on these topics" she explained. "We are also aware that the subject is complex. But when we talk about digital literacy, it is important to start the conversation about data protection as early as possible".
In 2018 and 2019, the Media Council did a survey with Danish children in fourth and seventh grade. Among many things, the survey revealed that only 4 per cent of the respondents in the fourth grade could explain "terms and conditions", compared to 24 per cent among the seventh-grade students.
Children and young people should and must know what data they share when they are online and that they have rights, which adults need to help protect and claim.
The importance of teaching GDPR and digital self-defense
Understanding the GDPR is not a simple matter. One might even say it is just as difficult to understand for an adult as it is for a child. However, understanding digital rights is a crucial part of digital literacy, and similarly, understanding the GDPR is a crucial part of proper digital self-defense. Children and young people are not responsible for understanding this on their own.
It is therefore important that parents or adults who work with children understand that the regulation contains certain child-specific considerations in relation to marketing, the creation of user profiles or the collection of personal information on information services directed at children. Parents as well as teachers share a responsibility in properly educating children and young people about the GDPR and digital security.
An approach based on dialogue
So how does one approach this complicated subject? It is important not to point fingers, but instead try to engage children and young people in an open dialogue on their behaviour online. The activities in this teaching material uses everyday situations as a starting point for discussion and to encourage students to reflect differently on them.
The material is called GDPR-WHAT? (in Danish, Person-data-hva'-for-noget?) and consists of a series of activities and questions for classroom discussion. These begin in the everyday lives of children and young people and it is designed so that it makes the students reflect on how they share personal data when they are online. For the younger students, the focus is on understanding privacy, by talking about what kind of information you want to share, with whom. The conversation does not necessarily need to start with something as complex as personal data, but it can explore information and privacy in general. For the older students, the focus is for them to understand how much data they are potentially sharing online and what their rights are.
For example, one activity targeted to older students requires them to "invent" their own imaginary app, which they would find relevant. The primary objective of the activity is to let the students act as app developers who have to take GDPR regulations into account when designing their app. By doing so, the students will hopefully see GDPR in a new light and be aware of their own sharing of personal data in apps.
Find out more information about the work of the Danish Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.