Safe friend is always a trend!

Due to the fast and constant development of IT and social media in today’s world, the informatics curriculum in primary schools cannot follow the fast-changing trends and easily becomes out of date, failing to cover important topics, such as child safety and child security on the Internet or child manipulation by social media influencers (where children who are not equipped with the mental maturity needed to be able to separate fiction from reality are exposed to advertisements and products of endless photo editing created to push their desires in a specific direction).

University students at the Department of Information and Communication Sciences, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb (Croatia) have recognized the need to convey the most important information on the issues, protection and self-presentation on the Internet to children. They are continuously collaborating with primary schools in Zagreb through S-L projects that aim to refresh the informatics curriculum with these burning topics.

children with a computer

During the winter semester of the 2016/2017 academic year, five students conducted a series of workshops as part of the S-L project: A safe friend is always in trend! The project was earmarked for pupils in 5th grade at the Rapska Elementary School. The topics included safe and responsible representation on the Internet and protection from cyber-bullying on the Internet. The project included workshops with pupils and lectures for parents on the topic of protecting children on the Internet. Work on the project required developing ideas, preparing material, collaborating with the school, designing and planning presentations and quizzes, material for parents, conducting workshops and finally evaluating the results and writing of the report.

All the students are students of Information Sciences at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb with excellent grades.

The project is a result of the continuous collaboration between the Department of Information and Communication Sciences at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences with primary schools in Zagreb through S-L projects that aim to refresh the informatics curriculum with many burning topics that are not covered by the curriculum.

Social Need/s Covered by the Service-Learning Experience

S-L experience faces real-world challenge of the community.
Cyber-bullying is defined as aggressive behaviour by electronic means against a particular group or individual over and over again, over time, online. There are two types of electronic abuse among school students: direct and indirect. In the case of direct electronic abuse, the messages are transmitted from the abuser to the victim, and in the case of indirect electronic abuse, the instigators stimulate others to abuse the victim, all through the use of 21st century technology, in the absence of parental control. New technologies, the Internet and smart phones, offer new opportunities for abusers. Abuse by using electronic devices is a serious problem in schools and all children need to learn how to react appropriately in case they are exposed to electronic abuse, and potential violators must recognize that there are serious consequences associated with such behaviour, including school measures, litigation and prosecution. Numerous scientific researches have been conducted in this area worldwide and show that students involved in S-L projects aimed at the prevention of peer violence and cyber-bullying in the local elementary schools significantly raised awareness of peer violence among school students.

Link the Experience to the SDGs

4.7. By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Service Objectives

  • Specific: education of Primary school students and their Parents on Cyber-bulling & Internet Security with an emphasis on social networks and responsible behaviour on the Internet. Passing on security-related experiences of university students to primary school students to raise awareness of the importance of this topic.
  • Measurable: a questionnaire before and after the workshop shows if workshops are needed and useful for children.
  • Achievable: The purpose of the workshops is to raise primary school students ‘and parents’ awareness of the importance of responsible behaviour on the Internet.
    Realistic and Relevant: Since security on the Internet is not part of the IT curriculum and there is more and more danger of violence on the Internet, these workshops ensure important information on the rules of responsible behaviour on the Internet.

Learning objectives

  • to understand and analyse literature about different types of service-learning activities
  • to understand the difference between S-L volunteering and student practicum
  • to critically think about their projects, forming arguments and counter-arguments
  • to participate in group projects aimed at developing IT solutions that follow the thematic content of  the study
  • transversal competencies: critical and innovative thinking, active citizenship
  • to write the project application, the project plan, evaluation forms and the final project report
    to understand the project management procedures
  • to develop presentation skills (verbal: voice, vocal variety) and non-verbal (gestures, facial expressions, pauses)
  • transversal competencies: to develop inter-personal skills and intra-personal skills
  • to use the appropriate tools to create the e-portfolio and website of the project
  • transversal competencies: to develop multi-literacy and ICT skills

Link to curriculum

S-L is explicitly integrated in the study program. A graduate elective course on S-L is offered to all students at Department of Information and Communication Sciences at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

  • S-L has credit recognition – 6 ECTS credits.
  • S-L is formally recognized in the student records through ISVU system.
  • Academic theory on Cyber-bulling & Internet Security is viewed in a real-world context.
  • S-L helps university students to learn how to transfer IT knowledge and skills from academic to community setting.
  • Teacher is actively involved in all phases of the project.

Activities carried out for achieving the service objectives


  1. reading and analysing academic literature on the given topic
  2. meeting with the community partner and discussing the community need


  1. writing of the S-L project application (project title, time-frame, project’s goals (SMART criteria), selection of the partner, team members’ skills, explanation of the community need, the structure of the project and the backup plan);
  2. in-class oral presentation of the project application.


  • students need to spend 45 hours in semester in the fieldwork, implementing the service on site.

Project closure:

  1. writing of the final project report ( work packages, project’s activities, outputs: milestones & deliverables, Gantt chart, etc.).
  2. final in-class oral presentation of the SL project
  3. e-portfolio as showcase on Google siteActivities are done both inside and outside of the classroom.


Each student is writing a reflective journal from the beginning till the end of the semester (before, during, and after the service experience).

Each journal needs to bring the personal experience of each student, used knowledge and skills and learned knowledge and skills, a list of relevant literature resources used in the project, specific contributions a student made to the community, connections between their S-L experience and their education, etc.)

Reflection examines the results, processes and relationships in the service-learning project. It establishes connections between students’ service experiences and the academic curriculum and helps students consider the social and ethical dimensions of their experience.

Students are guided with questions aimed at:

  • their academic reading skills (critical thinking)
  • their experience (reflective thinking) and
  • their project planning skills (strategic thinking)

Partnership & Reciprocity

The service-learning project is a collaboration among as many of these partners as is feasible: university students, university teachers, parents, community-based organizations, school administrators, school teachers, and the children on whose behalf the service is done.

  • The service is designed to achieve significant benefits for students and community.
  • All partners are involved in the planning of the service-learning project.
  • All partners contribute to the service-learning project.
  • Roles and expectations of each partner are clearly defined.
  • All partners benefit from the service-learning project.

Student voice

Students are engaged in a process that leads them to define “community” and “need”, they are involved in choosing and planning the service project. Students participate actively in the collaboration among the project’s partners, they are involved in planning the reflection sessions, evaluation, and celebration.

  • Student voice is age-appropriate.
  • The service-learning project promotes young people’s responsibility to care for others and to contribute to the community and helps students understand the community context of their actions.
  • By participating in the service-learning project, students understand how they can impact their community.
  • Students are involved in choosing and planning the service project.
  • Students participate actively in the collaboration among the project’s partners.
  • Students are involved in planning the reflection sessions, evaluation, and celebration.
  • Students use critical thinking skills to analyse their project and the related issues and they evaluate the project, their peers, community partners and the teacher at the end of the semester.
  • The service-learning project provides opportunities for students to connect with adult role models.

Evaluation and monitoring of processes and results

The evaluation has a clear purpose and target audience. All the partners, especially students, are involved in evaluating the service-learning project. The evaluation seeks to measure progress towards the learning and service goals of the service-learning project. It is planned before the project and uses tools that respect the diversity of learning styles.


In their exit surveys, primary school pupils have emphasized that they learned:

  1. to avoid the internet communication with unknown people
  2. to give their passwords only to parents
  3. to protect themselves from internet predators
  4. to react appropriately to cyber-bulling
  5. what they can and cannot do on the internet
  6. what is internet privacy


  1. University students learned to analyse and use literature on cyber-bulling and internet security issues of primary school children. They learned to think critically about their projects, forming arguments and counter-arguments.
  2. They engaged in active citizenship, wrote the project application, the project plan, filled in the evaluation forms and wrote the final project report.
  3. They developed their presentation skills through the initial and final project presentation, develop inter-personal skills working as a team with the primary school children as well as their intra-personal skills. They learned to create the e-portfolio and website of the project and further developed their ICT skills.

Celebration of the project and its results

Celebration is organized in parallel to the final presentation of the class S-L projects. Students are invited to bring snacks, invite their colleagues and press.

Dissemination activities

The S-L project is presented to other students in the same generation and representatives of the community partners in the last week of the semester.

From the beginning of the semester, students are asked to build the website on Google Sites and the final project presentation in Prezi (searchable by keywords).

Link to the website:

Link to the Prezi presentation:
Link to the video:

Students are invited to submit their project to the conference InFuture, which is organized by the Department of Information Sciences (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb) every two years.

They applied for and received the Rector’s award for this project.

Duration & Sustainability

Duration of the S-L experience in community setting (action): one academic semester (October-February). Students are expected to spend 15 weeks in the community, 3 hours per week, including fieldwork, theoretical and methodological preparation.
Duration of the reflection activities: 1-5 months after the end of the semester, depending on the student.

Human and material resources

One teacher, approximately 40 students.

Equipment: computers with the internet connection, resources on Moodle, overhead projector.


No budget is assigned to S-L activities by university. Small expenses are covered either by student themselves or by the community partner.

Contact details

Nives Mikelic Preradovic

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb

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