How do you teach tech-savvy kids to safely navigate the digital world? In Germany, you bring in the teenagers.
On a recent day, 18-year-old Chantal Hueben stood in front of a group of fifth-graders and asked them to brainstorm about the messaging program Whatsapp, which most are using to participate in a group chat for their class. They spoke about themes like cyberbullying and what material is OK to post.
The session at the Gesamtschule Borbeck high school, in the western German city of Essen, is part of a large-scale program in which teenagers teach their younger schoolmates how to stay safe and sane online.
As they grow older, they also participate in workshops about media copyright issues or sexting, and, at the end of eighth grade, they take a test to get a laminated “mobile license” that allows them to use their smartphones at certain times at school.
The exam includes 10 multiple choice questions. One asks what to do when somebody sends an embarrassing Snapchat photo of a fellow student. The answer, of course, is to not forward the picture to others.