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Media education depends on parents and teachers

Media courses help adolescents learn about new media and gain awareness of the risks associated with them. This has been shown in the latest JAMESfocus report published by the ZHAW and Swisscom. However, the report also shows that their private environment is just as important in the development of media literacy. This is why ZHAW researchers recommend media courses for young people at school or in their leisure time in addition to the media education they receive from their parents.

In the development of young people’s media literacy – i.e. their ability to handle media in a responsible and critical manner – it is not just teachers but also family members and friends who play an important role. This is shown in the ZHAW’s latest JAMESfocus report. The report is based on the JAMES Study, which investigates the media habits of Swiss adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 every two years. ZHAW media psychologists Daniel Süss and Gregor Waller and their team examined how useful media courses are for Swiss adolescents, what sources young people use to access information and whether media courses help them handle digital media responsibly. According to the latest report, 22 per cent of adolescents in German-speaking Switzerland have attended a media course at school. In French and Italian-speaking Switzerland, the figure is considerably higher, 33 per cent in each of these two language regions. “We think the difference results from the fact that in German-speaking Switzerland, the new Lehrplan 21 syllabus, which stipulates that media education should be included in school curricula, had not been implemented at the time of the survey”, says Daniel Süssen/about-us/person/suss/.

Michael In Albon, officer for the protection of young people from harmful media at Swisscom, agrees: “Although some schools do a lot to promote media literacy, we still don’t have a nationwide approach to the issue”, he says. He also suggests that the ICT concepts in many schools mainly focus on devices, servers and networks and that they do not take into account the aspect of media literacy. In Albon therefore recommends that schools should address media use in a more holistic manner and include parents in their approach.

Media education of young people
Media courses help adolescents learn about new media and gain awareness of the risks associated with them. This has been shown in the latest JAMESfocus report published by the ZHAW and Swisscom.

Media education at home plays an important role

Generally, the adolescents questioned in the survey find media courses helpful. 50 per cent say they have benefited from the courses, while two thirds say that they also seek information about new media from their family and friends. Among the adolescents who spoke about new media with their parents or peers, 69 per cent found the information they received helpful. The issues they primarily focus on include the risks of new media, careful media use, the protection of personal data and user skills. Daniel Süss explains the differences revealed in the survey as follows: “Family and friends, and particularly parents with good social and media skills, can help young people contextualise information from the digital world in their wider world knowledge. Everyday conversations with parents and peers therefore play an important role.”

Greater awareness of digital visibility

Media courses have a particularly positive effect regarding the issue of privacy. The results of the study show that adolescents who have attended media courses are more aware of risks affecting their privacy. Up to 60 per cent regularly update their privacy settings. “Those who have attended a course think more about the digital visibility of their personal data”, says Daniel Süss. “The media courses make adolescents aware of this important issue.”

Tips for schools and parents

  • Parents play an important role in the development of media literacy. Based on their own experience, they can promote their children’s use of media by helping them develop their capacity for enjoyment, their ability to be critical and their social skills. Media courses can provide additional input and improve user skills. However, courses alone cannot replace the long-term support and media education provided by parents.
  • Media courses at school are helpful. However, media issues should ideally be integrated in other school subjects as well. The Lehrplan 21 syllabus for German-speaking Switzerland addresses this by including subject-specific media skills.
  • Learning by doing. Involving students in media projects, such as making films on certain lesson topics or creating online student newspapers, is a more sustainable and meaningful way of strengthening their media literacy than merely giving them information. Media courses should therefore include not just information but also practical recommendations.

The brochure «Medienkompetenz – Tipps zum sicheren Umgang mit digitalen Medien» provides parents and other interested parties with information on media use by children and adolescents as well as helpful tips on media education. The brochure «Medienkompetenz im Schulalltag» provides teachers and school administrators with helpful advice on promoting media literacy through teaching. Download and/or order the brochures for free at (in German).

JAMES Study and JAMESfocus reports

The JAMES Study has been conducted by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) on behalf of Swisscom every two years since 2010. In the survey, over 1,000 young people aged 12 to 19 from Switzerland’s three main language regions are asked about their media habits. The data from the JAMES Study is analysed in detail with regard to various aspects of media use, and the results are published in the JAMESfocus report series. This year, the reports “Media use and sleep quality” and “Media courses and media literacy” have been published in the JAMESfocus series. The results of the latest JAMES Study survey are expected to come out in early November 2016.


ZHAW School of Applied Psychology, +41 58 934 84 08,

Swisscom AG, Media Relations, 3050 Bern, +41 58 221 98 04,