School Textbooks in Japan to Flag Dangers of Internet

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A page explaining issues that arise on the internet is seen in a school textbook.

Textbooks to be used in schools from next spring will give a balanced view of the internet, flagging its convenience but also warning of its potential dangers.

The internet can be used to spread discrimination and reinforce prejudice via social media.

In its ethics textbook for sixth-grade elementary school students, Tokyo Shoseki Co. writes about “filter bubbles,” in which users of social media end up surrounded solely by information they want to see, and about “echo chambers,” in which only opinions that they agree with are shown.

In the textbook, a girl living amid the COVID-19 pandemic thinks to herself: “Those who were infected [with the virus] are to blame. They failed to take countermeasures and had no willpower.” The story is aimed at showing how it is possible to only encounter similar opinions on social media and assume that “everyone is thinking the same way.”

The company included this story in response to a comment from an information morality expert who said that “students in the upper grades come into contact with biased statements and ideas on the internet.”

An official of the publishing firm said, “We thought elementary school students should know how discrimination can come about from online information.”

By the 2020 school year, elementary and junior high school students across the country had each been provided with a digital device, allowing them to become more familiar with the internet.

However, schools have registered adverse effects, too, such as students slandering each other through chat functions on their devices and browsing websites unrelated to classes.

In response, publishers have included in their content related to the internet and digital literacy in their moral, social and health education texts.

Some textbooks have thorough descriptions of gaming and internet addiction. Gakken Holdings Co. was the first publisher to mention video game addiction in its ethics textbook for first-grade elementary school students.

“Because students are each provided with a digital device, we concluded it was best to address the issue from an early stage,” a Gakken official said.

Taishukan Publishing Co.’s health education textbooks for fifth and sixth-grade elementary school students include advice about taking care on the internet, such as by not posting personal information.