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 risks 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, as well as addressing issues such as bullying, addictive behaviour, password security and how to deal with third-party content.

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

Under the terms of §197 of the Swiss Federal Penal Code, it is forbidden to show content of a porno­graphic nature to persons under the age of 16. This applies equally to content providers. Swisscom is also 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. The industry initiative was subjected to a thorough review in 2016 and now incorporates the stipulations laid down by the regulator ex ante. For example, companies that have signed up communicate more frequently with their customers about appropriate measures to improve media literacy. The industry initiative strengthens the role of youth media protection officers and is now also monitored by an external unit.


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
  • Intensive direct dialogue by the youth media protection officer in social media and in the press

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. 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 skills events with almost 30,000 participants throughout Switzerland in 2016. This makes it the largest provider of media courses in Switzerland.
  • In autumn 2016, Swisscom also launched an offering that allows parents to request advice on media usage in their own home. Swisscom Friends, as they are known, have received targeted training to be able to answer questions from concerned parents relating to education and technology directly on site. Swisscom Friends are volunteers and are compensated by customers directly.
  • In view of the impending introduction of “Lehrplan 21” (an initiative to standardise primary school curricula) in German-speaking cantons, it has redesigned its offering for schoolchildren and aligned it to the requirements of a skills-based curriculum. Swisscom is increasingly taking account of the radical change in the media habits of young people in recent years, and has launched targeted offerings for primary through secondary school pupils (third and fourth grades, fifth and sixth grades, and seventh to ninth grades). The initial response from schools and teaching staff has confirmed that Swisscom is on the right track.
  • The JAMES Study: The JAMES Study investigates the way in which media is used by young people aged between 12 and 19. In 2016, Swisscom, in cooperation with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), conducted the fourth 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 had not been consistently carried out before 2010. A new round of data collection is planned for 2018.
  • Media smart: The advisor platform for parents has been online since 2013. It portrays real families and depicts the pedagogical challenge of getting children and young people interested in sensible media usage. Many families have since shared their personal experiences with privacy, cyber­bullying, game addiction and being media savvy with an ever increasing number of visitors. The platform registered approximately 40,000 visits in 2016. Thus, while it still fell slightly short of expectations, the number of visitors is steadily rising.

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 2016, over 15,000 people attended courses on how to use modern communications media. Since the launch of the Swisscom Academy, some 300,000 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.

Further platforms for media skills

The following measures also contribute to a smaller degree to healthy, responsible media usage:

  • Offerings for customers: Internet Security, “Natel easy start” subscription for children, activation of PIN to block channels and VOD services on Swisscom TV, promotion of app (Offtime)
  • Communication and information measures: Publications in industry magazines (“Educateur”, parenting magazine “Fritz und Fränzi”, “Bildung Schweiz”), social media presence of youth media protection officer (Twitter, Facebook), media work concerning the “Awareness Day” on 20 May 2016