Ban social media for under 16s? In Fucecchio the school experiences the “offline week”

Ban social media under 15 years of age. It is the French proposal which was followed by an appeal along the same lines from the Italian Children’s Ombudsman (which indeed proposes to raise the limit to 16 years). At the moment, in fact, even if the European Union’s GDPR already provides for the minimum age of 16 to register for any online service, national states can lower it, as long as it does not go below 13 years. In Italy, as Brunella Greco of Save The Children explains, “the limit is 13 years with parental consent and 14 years without, but the real problem is that there is no Age Verification system”. So in fact, in reality, there are many 10-11 year olds who already have an Instagram or Tik Tok account. An area undoubtedly full of risks: but the path of prohibition does not convince everyone. In fact, for many experts and educators, “prohibition” is not a viable way to limit a phenomenon that already permeates our society.

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Among others, Tommaso Giani, a religion teacher at the Checchi institute in Fucecchio, who has been experimenting with some of the school’s kids during the offline week for two years, is convinced of this. “I am skeptical about the ban and above all about his application – he tells Sky TG24 – it’s like trying to stop the wind with your hands”. “But – he adds – as to learn to drive you need a driving licence, you would also need a“ Driver’s license ”for your smartphone and social networks. They cannot be handed over to 10-11 year olds without guidance. They are often a vehicle for bullying, frustration, exaggerated narcissism. We need the support of an adult, of the school”.

The “offline week” of the Checchi institute in Fucecchio

And the school, in this case, has tried to take a path that brings the kids more awareness of the use of smartphones and social networks. Since September 2021 (after the toughest period of the pandemic) the Checchi Institute has launched the proposal for a week without smartphones for a small group of kids who leave their phones in the first week of school, kept locked up by the principal, and spend a week different, which also provides for living together in a hostel, made available by the Municipality that gave birth to Montanelli. The proposal is aimed at all of the approximately one thousand students of the institute but every year “it is hard to find the small group of 8-9 young people willing to participate”. “The days are structured like this – says Giani – in the morning I take the kids to school in a minibus, then we have lunch together in a partner restaurant and in the afternoon we organize trips throughout Tuscany. In the evening, when you go back to sleep in the hostel, it’s the most feared moment: there are those who fear they won’t be able to fall asleep without the ‘company’ of their mobile phone, but the kids learn to fill the void left by their smartphones with music, the books, the gossip”. “The week – he continues – ends with a ceremony in which the principal returns the phone to the boys, who can’t wait to get it back”. Almost life as before – says Giani – but in that almost there is something that makes the difference: having learned to carve out offline windows, such as not looking at the mobile phone at the cinema or while talking to someone, leaving it for two hours in another room while studying”.

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This is confirmed by Giulia, now 18, who has been using social media since she was in the fifth grade (initially with parental supervision) and participated in the 2021 edition: “That experience was significant for me. When I arrived I had stopped reading, there in four days I finished off a book, even though my days were much fuller than usual. Since then I’ve started reading again and haven’t stopped. I also learned to use the phone more consciously: when I sleep I always turn it off, if I go out with friends I leave it in my bag and enjoy their company, if I study I don’t look at it”. Even Paolo, who is in fifth grade and participated in the offline week last September, says he brought home something from this experience: “You learn to give more importance to certain moments, and you develop some more skills in managing these tools, even to give them less importance. The younger you are, the more importance you give to what you see, to the image of yourself that you can give on social media”. Finally, a jab at the world of adults: “I think it all starts from the family, the point is not to ban, but if at home the parents are the first to isolate themselves on social media, there’s nothing to do”.