Media protection for minors and promoting media skills

Media protection for minors and guidelines on media content

Digital media present both opportunities and risks for children and young people – although the latter are often ignored. Swisscom is determined not to leave parents to shoulder the responsibility of handling these risks alone. Instead, it supports parents and teachers by providing a wide range of information, resources and offers.

Privacy plays a particularly important role in youth media protection. Children and young people who disclose private or even intimate information on social networks are often unaware of the repercussions this may have. Swisscom thus uses brochures and courses to explain to subscribers and participants the importance of fundamental measures to protect privacy.

Swisscom supports the High Principles on Child Protection of the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO).

Under the terms of the Swiss Federal Penal Code, it is forbidden for providers to offer content of a pornographic nature to persons under the age of 16. Swisscom is rigorous in its interpretation of the regulations of the Ordinance on Telecommunications Services regarding the blocking of value-added services. For example, it does not offer any adult content on its information portal or in its video-on-demand offering.

Since 2008, the Industry Initiative of the Swiss Association of Telecommunications (asut) for Improved Youth Media Protection and the Promotion of Media Skills in Society has recommended a list of youth media protection measures in addition to the legal requirements which Swisscom has pledged to comply with. For example, Swisscom provides filtering software for the Internet, meets its obligation to actively provide customers with information, shows a willingness to engage in dialogue with organisations committed to youth media protection and has appointed a youth media protection officer.

However, an evaluation of the industry initiative through the programme “Youth and Media”, which was carried out by the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO), found deficiencies in its implementation and enforcement. Swisscom is grateful for the critical feedback and has taken direct measures to improve the areas where deficiencies were identified. For example, it launched a major training initiative to further improve the preparation sales staff receive as regards addressing the special needs of concerned parents. In 2016, Swisscom, together with co-signers Sunrise, SALT and upc cablecom, will present a new sector initiative. Swisscom also welcomes efforts by asut to provide an even broader basis for the sector initiative and thus increase its relevance even further.


Swisscom goes beyond the legal requirements for youth media protection:

  • Strict interpretation of safeguards when it comes to the indebtedness of customers who are minors
  • No adult content whatsoever is included in the video-on-demand offerings on Swisscom TV or on the information portal
  • Additional channel blocking via PIN on Swisscom TV
  • Providing youth media protection with the “Replay” TV function
  • Providing FSK age-rating recommendations for all video-on-demand films
  • Exceptionally stringent requirements apply to third-party providers of value-added services

The Telecommunication Services Ordinance requires telecommunication service providers to disclose information on the existence and use of a blocking set at least once a year. A blocking set prevents access to chargeable value-added services on specific lines. Swisscom sends its customers a bill enclosure every year to inform them about this free service. The blocking set is automatically activated for young subscribers under the age of 16 and can only be deactivated with the consent of their parent or legal guardian.

Promoting media skills

The measures Swisscom has taken in the area of youth media protection minimise many of the risks that arise when children and young people use media. However, Swisscom considers the promotion of media skills among children and young people to be the best method of reducing the risks over the long term. It has therefore worked for a number of years to help children and young people use digital media sensibly and in moderation:

  • Media courses for parents, teaching staff and pupils: The courses are held on parents’ evenings and as part of further training sessions for teachers. The aim of the courses is to raise the participants’ awareness of the risks and to make recommendations on the use of media at home and in school. In total, Swisscom held more than 1,000 media skills events with over 25,000 participants throughout Switzerland in 2015. This makes Swisscom one of the largest providers of media courses in Switzerland.
  • The JAMES Study: The JAMES Study investigates the way in which media is used by young people aged between 12 and 19. In 2014, Swisscom, in cooperation with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), conducted the third nationwide “JAMES Study”. The findings from the JAMES Study allow conclusions and measures to be formulated in the fields of science and politics based on reliable, scientific data. With this study, Swisscom is bridging a gap in research that has existed for a long time, particularly as surveys into media usage among young people were not consistently carried out before 2010. A new round of data collection is planned for 2016.

National programme for the promotion of media skills

In summer 2010, the Swiss Federal Council set up the “Youth and Media” programme, aimed at improving the media skills of children and young people. The Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO) was responsible for implementing the programme, which was completed at the end of 2015. Swisscom was the principal partner of the programme for five years. Swisscom continues to firmly believe that co-operation between the public and private sectors is particularly important in the field of youth media protection.

Media courses for parents, teaching staff and pupils

Swisscom has been expanding its course offerings to promote media skills on a continuous basis since 2012. In addition to the information events for parents and teaching staff, its offering also includes a modular course for secondary school pupils (year 7 to year 9) and a flexible module for primary school pupils (year 4 to year 6). Teachers can choose from a range of modules dealing with general media usage behaviour, legal issues on the Internet, social networks, safe surfing and the issue of cyberbullying. Swisscom appoints a dedicated course instructor for the participating classes. The offering continued to be popular in 2015 as well.


Swisscom Academy

The Swisscom Academy has been teaching people how to use mobile devices and the Internet since 2005. Courses are offered on a daily basis at the training centres in Berne, Basel, Lausanne, Lucerne, Geneva and Zurich. The academy also has a mobile presence at additional locations every year. In 2015, over 12,000 people attended courses on how to use modern communications media. Since the launch of the Swisscom Academy, some 334,189 people have attended Swisscom’s training courses. The courses are aimed at the general population in Switzerland and are open to customers and non-customers alike. Through the courses, Swisscom is playing an important role in reducing the digital generation gap.

Media smart

For more than two years, the media smart platform has offered parents detailed and practical tips for dealing with digital media in everyday life, told using stories from daily family life. Twelve families have already shared their personal experiences with privacy, cyberbullying, game addiction and being media savvy with an ever increasing number of visitors. Each month, the visits to the media smart page are automatically recorded and statistically processed.