klicksafe in the TagesspiegelInterview with the coordinator Birgit Kimmel

The Tagesspiegel Background recently published a detailed portrait of our coordinator, Birgit Kimmel. We are very pleased to be able to publish the text here with the kind permission of the Tagesspiegel.

Tagesspiegel Background: Cybersecurity - Portrait Birgit Kimmel

Actually, Birgit Kimmel's goal was to become a child and youth psychotherapist. But during her studies of educational science at the University of Koblenz-Landau, she worked as a research assistant at the Center for Empirical Pedagogical Research and was thus confronted with media education through projects. One thing led to another, and the Media Authority of Rhineland-Palatinate hired Kimmel right out of college. "And I have been working at the Medienanstalt for over 20 years. It was actually by chance that I got into media education," says Kimmel.

She is now one of the coordinators of the EU initiative klicksafe, the German awareness center that aims to promote online literacy, especially among those who work with children and young people. To this end, users can find a wide range of tips and teaching materials on digital services on the klicksafe information portal.

klicksafe was created on the initiative of the European Union (EU) in the individual member states. The main task of the European awareness centers in the national states is to make good projects from the countries visible and to close gaps where topics have not been dealt with, says the 56-year-old Kimmel. Content would be delivered through the website, social media and a variety of materials and activities. In addition, EU awareness centers are also to build networks in nation states, which brings together different stakeholders, meaning ministries, companies as well as NGOs, Kimmel says.

Despite new platforms, much remains the same

In addition to educating educators or teachers, klicksafe in Germany exchanges information with companies such as Google and Facebook, he said. After all, the world of platforms and online offerings is constantly changing, he said. "I entered the media world when there were no social networks at all. Facebook wasn't launching yet. We started with 'klicksafe' ourselves in 2004 and I grew into the topics, was able to build my networks early on and was confronted with the issues early on," says Kimmel.

Despite the emergence of new services, the fundamental problems and risks are always similar in her view. The educational issues actually changed only slightly. "If we look at Tiktok now, there's another very different approach. But what remains the same is discovering a platform like this together with parents and teachers, for example, and always making security and privacy settings together so that you accompany children and young people and don't leave them alone in these services," says Kimmel. Certain options for action always remain important.

Keeping an eye on the youngest

In addition to klicksafe, Kimmel also heads the German Safer Internet Centre, a network of awareness centers, Internet complaint hotlines and helplines. When this came into being in 2008, existing structures came together in the network. The German hotlines are those of Jugendschutz.net, Eco and FSM. "Then there was still the task of setting up a helpline in Germany. At that time, we entered into a cooperation with the 'Nummer gegen Kummer' (number against sorrow) and trained all volunteers so that they could give advice on the phone on media-pedagogical topics. We are still working and developing on this basis today," she says.

In 2022, the focus of the EU's awareness centers will be even more on young children. "Because what we are experiencing is that younger children in particular are increasingly using media on their own and without supervision. We do know that even elementary school children already have smartphones, but that apps and other services have not been developed for their age and therefore bring ever greater risks. This is something we will be more concerned about in the coming years," Kimmel said. Keeping an eye on the well-being of children is also close to the Palatine's heart because of her first professional life.

Because before her studies, Kimmel was first an educator. She spent several years working directly with children in institutions where adolescents from dysfunctional families came together in particular, she says. Then came her studies, the assistant job and finally the leap to the Media Authority Rhineland-Palatinate. Author Constantin Eckner

Three questions for Birgit Kimmel:

1) What innovation would you like to see?

I would like to see us finally get to grips with offering safe surfing rooms for children. Safe surfing spaces means that children can use services that are also age-appropriate, that do not pursue commercial interests, but rather have the well-being of the child in mind. We need services that parents and teachers can trust, so that we can use them to introduce children to the opportunities and dangers of the Internet.

2) Who from the digital scene has impressed you?

There are a few people who deal primarily with ethical issues. For example, Jaron Lanier and his book "Who owns the future?", in which he reminded us that we need to take action ourselves and that we need a digital constitution.

3) As digital minister, I would...

...work strongly across disciplines. I would work closely with the Minister of Family Affairs and the Minister of Education. Above all, I would push for educational institutions to finally be adequately equipped in terms of infrastructure, but also in terms of training teachers so that they can competently support children and young people.

Many thanks to the editors of Tagesspiegel Background for releasing the text. Of course, you can also find the text on the Tagesspiegel Background website.