How Leipzig schools are preparing for online hate

In addition to all the progress that the Internet brings us, it also harbors many dangers: hateful comments, fake news and cyberbullying are just a few examples. Children and young people grow up with it. However, this does not automatically make them competent users of digital media. Many are of the opinion that schools should do this. But what about digital competence in the classrooms of Leipzig?

Katja Propst is a school social worker at a high school in northwest Leipzig and mainly deals with bullying incidents. “It’s an ongoing problem,” Propst says. “A lot happens in class discussions. In these groups, it is not homework that is exchanged, but photos and videos. A fight has just been filmed and the video has been released. Teachers have also been repeatedly filmed without knowing it. It was only by pure coincidence that such videos were found on social networks such as Instagram or TikTok.

More and more fake news on the internet

One of Propst’s tasks is to discuss such incidents in class. “I also talk to the parents about it, because it is up to them to control”, reports the social worker. In addition, the school also uses external experts, for example a police officer, who explains the legal consequences. “Children are horrified when they hear: you have also committed a criminal offense because you forwarded the photo,” says Propst.

The fake news, on the other hand, did not concern the students, according to the social worker. But that doesn’t mean they don’t fall in love with them anyway. A study published in 2021 by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research in Hamburg showed that younger generations mainly consume their news via online media and social media platforms. At the same time, targeted misinformation is increasingly circulating on the Internet. But who teaches learners how to tell real news from fake news?

One problem among many others

“There is no separate subject matter for media competence in the Free State,” explains Roman Schulz, spokesman for the Saxon State Office for Schools and Education (Lasub). About three years ago, a competence framework from the Ministry of Education called “Competences in the digital world” was included in the Saxon curricula. It stipulates, for example, that students must “know the risks and dangers of digital environments”. “This applies to all programs,” says Lasub spokesman Schulz. “Everyone can do what suits them.”

However, Lena Mischke rarely corresponds. The young teacher teaches mathematics and economics/technology/housekeeping at a secondary school in Leipzig. It also reports on the photos and videos that are sent thoughtlessly within the school. But this is only one problem among many others. “Thinking about how to deal with social media, reach of decisions, fake news,” Mischke lists – there’s little overlap of content on these topics in his topics. “That’s where the media skills go,” says the 27-year-old.

Teachers often overwhelmed by time

Extracurricular organizations can help. “Social Web macht Schule”, for example, is committed to the “safe and responsible use of digital media” throughout Saxony. Among other things, the project offers workshops for school classes on topics such as cyberbullying, data protection and fake news. “Teachers are happy when someone from the outside comes to do it,” explains Marcel Burghardt, the organisation’s general manager. Because, on the one hand, they are often overwhelmed with time and, on the other hand, they have generally not heard of these subjects during their studies.

“We notice that the inquiries in Leipzig are increasing,” reports Burghardt. No wonder: there are many providers of free and public courses on the subject of media. However, this does not seem sufficient to cover the needs of Saxon schools. School social worker Katja Propst reports that workshops are always full and requests should be made well in advance. “Overall, the situation regarding the funding of media education is appalling in Saxony”, admits project manager Burghardt. The structures would rather be dismantled, the subsidies stopped. “The CDU always says that it does and wants to do a lot, but in the end there is little to see.”

By Friederike Pick

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