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‘Good’ and ‘bad’ secrets Zurich: Kindergarten kids to get data protection lessons

Picture showing children taking selfies

Selfies, pictures: children should be aware of data issues, experts say

(Canton Zurich data protection watchdog)

Children in canton Zurich aged as young as 4 to 9 could soon be learning about data protection and privacy issues, in one of the first projects of its kind in Europe.

The teaching material has been developed by the Zurich University of Teacher Educationexternal link (PHZH) at the request of the canton’s data protection watchdogexternal link, Bruno Baeriswyl, who believes that young people in particular are not enough aware of the consequences of sharing personal data.

It will be tested in spring this year and will become part of teacher training courses in the canton from autumn onwards, according to a statementexternal link released by the watchdog on Monday.

Privacy, a fundamental right, is part of a free and democratic society – and younger children need to know what privacy is, Baeriswyl told Swiss public radio SRFexternal link. But children also need to know what happens when they put private information out into the public sphere, he added.

Abstract topic made simple

One module entitled “Secrets are allowed” (Geheimnisse sind erlaubt, in German), which is made up of five parts, aims to teach children that not everything they hear or see should be in the public domain. It discusses the difference between good and bad secrets: some which children should keep to themselves and some that they should tell adults, if it helps the affected person.

The teaching material communicates its message in a playful way, for example through short cartoons. One, aimed at younger children, has already been released (link here, in Germanexternal link) showing an explanation of a good secret: a friend confiding in you that they cannot ride a bike and asking you to not tell everyone about it.

The older children will also be taught about their own social media presence and sharing information related to others. This includes the consequences of taking pictures of their friends and sharing them, as can be seen in the illustration below.

taking a picture, illustration

Should other people’s misfortunes be shared with others?

(Canton Zurich data protection watchdog)

“The 'Secrets are allowed' teaching materials are certainly a first in Switzerland, and to our knowledge also in Europe and most probably worldwide,” Baeriswyl’s spokesman told swissinfo.ch via email. This applies to the fact that the project is suitable for four-year-olds (Kindergarten runs from age 4-6 in canton Zurich) and focuses on raising awareness of privacy issues, he said.

The project will be made available in e-book form in April and tested on several classes from spring. It will be part of teacher training starting in autumn.

The collaborationexternal link between the PHZH and the canton Zurich data protection watchdog is continuing. A project on privacy issues aimed at older pupils is currently in development.

SRF/swissinfo.ch/ilj

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