The e-commerce platform Spreadshirt has just started to endorse the media guide SCHAU HIN! The collaboration started in September 2014 with a stall at the World Children´s Day event in Berlin. In today’s interview, Spreadshirt’s CEO Philip Rooke delivers his views on the cooperation as a whole, expressed his desire to bring more media competence to families and illustrates how to deal with personal information online.
SCHAU HIN!: Spreadshirt supports the media guide SCHAU HIN!, and in turn the media competence of children and families. What´s the reason for your commitment?
Philip Rooke: It´s my heartfelt wish to support SCHAU HIN! Spreadshirt is an online platform, and the internet is both our home and an extremely rapidly evolving place. New studies show that 87 per cent of kids between the age of 12 and 19 have a smartphone. Using instant messengers and social networks is quite natural to them. But kids don’t just become a so-called digital native by being born in the right decade. It requires competence and experience – and parents play an important role in helping them gain it. It’s a sign of our time that many adults have problems keeping pace both with the technical evolution in general and the media competence of their children in particular. Prohibiting the use of technology based on a fear of undesired consequences is definitely the wrong way of coping with it. The solution is to discover new age-appropriate media worlds together.
SH!: Do you think that using new media poses more of a threat or a chance to children?
P.R.: Definitely a chance! Provided that they are equipped with the necessary competence, that is. The internet is full of opportunity. You can access knowledge easily, get in contact with people from all over the world, act out your interests and find a playground for your creativity. In my opinion, self expression is a very important part of the current changes. We don´t have to rely on filtered information from classical media anymore, but we can be media makers and opinion leaders in social networks, blogs or boards. This active role does, however, also hold the danger that people may reveal too much about themselves or others, which is a liability to people’s privacy. A keyword here is cyber-bullying. When I was a child, there also were victims and offenders, and back then it all took place in the schoolyard. Now it takes center stage online, and kids need to learn to put things into perspective and be able to differentiate between the offline and online world. It’s important for them to understand that virtual reality is different from physical reality and to act accordingly. This will help protect them.
SH!: Handling personal information carefully is an important topic. What can parents and children do to protect their privacy?
P.R.: As a CEO of an online platform for individually printed clothing and accessories, there is an allegory that springs to my mind: “You should only publish online what you would print on a T-shirt that you would openly and proudly wear on the street.” You wouldn´t want to sport revealing photos or your credit card data on your chest, would you? Parents should be role models and raise their kids´ awareness for privacy. They should find solutions to the following questions: Which information is personal? What should I post or show where? How can I cleverly use the features of each medium, and do I e.g. have the right privacy settings on Facebook? Moreover, parents should be careful with photos of their kids. Just like adults are well advised not to post bikini photos or images of excessive parties, their children need to learn to protect their privacy considering that many photos stay online for many years. Parents should also i.e. refrain from publishing their children’s names in order to protect their privacy. And if they do post photos, they should at least be sure that they wear sunglasses or hats to make them less recognizable in photos. Teaching their children to critically question everything they plan to publish and to think of the years to come is a very important lesson. The internet does not forget!
SH!: Online shoppers have to enter a lot of data. What should parents consider regarding online shopping?
P.R.: There are a few really simple basics that can easily be covered. Passwords and bank data such as credit card details must be kept out of children´s reach. Parents should further child-proof their computers and mobile devices. There are many good apps out there to install a special child mode. Regarding older kids and young people, it´s very important to set a good example and to explain why something is important. Doing online shopping together is also helpful.
SH!: New media development is a pretty rapid affair. How do you expect the new media world to look like in five or ten years?
P.R.: Looking into my crystal ball, I can see mobile devices and the application of software on them will dominate the development. I hope that schools will soon realize that they have to do more for improving media competence. In my opinion, children are still insufficiently educated in this area. Despite all technical progress, I hope that in 10 years time families will still sit together while having supper and talk about their day – without any technical devices. Now the first of the so-called digital natives have become parents themselves, and we will see whether they will be able to communicate the use new media naturally, without fear and while switching on their brains. And hopefully they can do better than some parents today. Personally, I look forward to the next steps in the technical evolution. Maybe we will have gadgets in our own clothing or even in our bodies? Or will we finally be able to enjoy super fast internet in the smallest of villages?