Everyone uses it, but only a few know their way around the internet and social media. The "Campus AMI" educational format provides digital education and teaches media skills in Central America.
Dynamic, live and virtual from the studio in Berlin: Sebastián Gómez from DW Español moderates a "Campus AMI" session
Which messages can I trust? What do I do if someone threatens me with violence online? Can I share everything online without thinking about it?
Although a large part of human interaction now takes place online, very few people know how to safely navigate this new terrain. The educational format "Campus AMI" provides digital education in Latin America through a creative mix of webinars, TV shows, moderated talks and live sketches. A multinational and interdisciplinary team from Germany and Guatemala – with support from the Organization of American States (OAS) and UNESCO – put together this far-reaching program. The program has brought together dozens of voices from three continents and 17 countries via Campus AMI to address the many issues that arise when navigating the flood of media and information online.
Violence remains one of the most pressing social problems in Central America. In El Salvador, a person falls prey to sexual violence every four hours and 42 minutes, yet nearly 90 percent of reported rapes go unpunished. A recent survey reflected a similar pattern on social media platforms, with 64 percent of 400 female journalists from 50 countries saying they had experienced violence online.
"The violence that occurs online is becoming more normal because we think it doesn't spread beyond the virtual world, but there is evidence that it does," said Metzi Rosales, a journalist and professor from El Salvador.
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Cyberbullying is a form of online violence and is one of the central dangers in online chat rooms or on messaging apps worldwide. Victims are often slandered, harassed or threatened. One participant in a Campus AMI online session quickly discovered that a new Facebook friend was not very friendly.
"We started writing to each other every day, but soon he became aggressive if I didn't reply immediately," she recalled. This behavior became too much for her and she blocked the contact on her social networks.
"After a few days, I started getting a lot of friend requests from strangers, all fake profiles he created," she said. The online stalking did not stop and was followed by sexual harassment and serious threats. The victim was eventually forced to change her cell phone number and social media profiles. It soon became clear that this was not an isolated case. Another participant was even forced to change schools and move.
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"We young people use TikTok, Instagram and Facebook but no one taught us how to interact safely there," explained Sara Martinez, editor-in-chief of Sónica, a digital platform for young people in Guatemala. To help young people use online services in a safe and informed way, Campus AMI teaches Media and Information Literacy (MIL).
"Basically, it's about young people using media more consciously, learning about the digital sites they live and interact on, and also understanding the implications of what they post. They should learn how to better protect themselves and others online," said Patricia Noboa Armendáriz, DW Akademie's country coordinator for Guatemala, summarizing the goals of Campus AMI.
Project partner Communicares worked to make some of the content from Campus AMI available in the Mayan languages of Achí, Kaqchikel, Q'eqchi' and Kiché. Communicares works with four different indigenous language communities in Guatemala and has diverse contacts with local media.
"In this way, we reach people who are largely excluded and disadvantaged, not only in society as a whole but also in the digital world," said Armendáriz.
In addition to young people, DW Akademie reached out to experts in the field to help Campus AMI spread MIL throughout Central America. In collaboration with DW Español, professional TV programs were created on topics such as digital security, MIL in schools, online algorithms and how to recognize misinformation and false news.
All videos and information are still available on the Campus AMI website. Teachers in the field of media and information literacy can also get complimentary training with the e-learning platform "AMIdual". The platform is the first of its kind in the world and was created together with ASEC, a project partner in Guatemala.