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WhatsApp – the number 1 messenger app

The most popular messenger, even among children and teenagers, is WhatsApp. This is because communication is practical and easy, and many other people use it. Unfortunately, there are a few negative sides to the popular service.

In a nutshell:

  • free messenger app available for Android and iOS (Apple) and as a web app
  • Registration with cell phone number
  • Options: Send chats, calls, files, location, voice messages and contacts, create group chats.
  • Risks: Disclosure of personal data, risk of cyberbullying and other communication risks.
  • Age rating: USK from 12 years (content for different age groups – chats). According to its own terms and conditions, the app may not be used by anyone under the age of 16. However, this is not controlled by the provider.

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a free messenger. Registration requires a cell phone number and access to contacts’ phone numbers. After that, profile picture and profile name can be assigned.

The main function of WhatsApp is to send messages to people from your own contacts (address book) who also use the app. These can be text and voice messages, photos, videos, files, contacts as well as your own location. They can be sent to individuals or a whole group. Individual and group calls as well as video telephony are also possible. Among teenagers, sending emojis and GIFs is especially popular. They can also respond to individual messages with emojis. Self-deleting messages can be sent, which automatically disappear from the device after seven days. And there is the possibility to send photos and videos, which may be viewed only once and then disappear.

Via WhatsApp it is only possible to contact someone whose number you have. When receiving a message from an unknown number, the contact can be controlled using the “add” or “block” buttons. Calls from unknown numbers can be muted.

With the chat lock function, selected chats can be made virtually invisible. These then only appear in a certain category and are protected by a code, Face ID or fingerprint.

What particularly fascinates young people about it?

Young people like to use the app because it allows them to quickly get in touch with acquaintances and family members, since almost everyone uses WhatsApp. Teachers and classmates in class chats, grandparents as well as friends in other countries are just a click away. Users can exchange information with their contacts and see when they were last online. Via the profile picture and the so-called status they can share impressions from their life (similar to Instagram). Fast communication via voice messages is particularly popular among young people.

What can be problematic about the offer?

Especially the read receipt function (two blue check marks on a message) can put young people under pressure to always reply directly. Even though hundreds of messages are sometimes exchanged daily in a class chat, this can overwhelm and stress children and young people. In addition, fakenews is often spread via class chats. Pictures and messages are sent quickly. There is a risk that personal data, pictures and videos will be carelessly shared, redistributed or used for bullying. Also dubious sweepstakes, Chain letters or misleading notifications can be problematic – before all, even sexting.

Since there are hardly any privacy settings on WhatsApp, users have to be careful themselves about what content they send or post in their status. They should only be ones that everyone is allowed to read or see.

In addition, WhatsApp accesses a lot of information about the users, e.g., the entire contact list in the cell phone. This is how foreign contact data gets to WhatsApp and other people without being asked.

WhatsApp offers so-called “channels” under “News”. This is a type of group chat in which only the person who created it can write something. Channels are used by celebrities, influencers and companies to stay in touch with their target groups and fans. However, be careful: messages, images and videos that are not suitable for children and young people may also appear on channels.

What does the provider think?

WhatsApp, just like Instagram , belongs to the Meta group (formerly Facebook). The GTCs in force since 2021 inform that user data will also be passed on to companies for advertising purposes.

Certain security settings are supposed to improve the usage: People or phone numbers can be blocked; location tracking and read receipts can be deactivated. Users can limit the visibility of their own profile. Messages are exchanged in encrypted form, so they cannot be easily “hacked” by strangers. However, this only works in individual messages and when the backup – i.e. the data backup – is deactivated.

In early 2022, WhatsApp announced that group administrators will be able to delete messages from others. This function has not yet been implemented.

What should parents pay attention to?

If your child is younger than 16, you must consent to their use of WhatsApp. Make sure your child uses Messenger responsibly. Explain to your child how they can protect their personal information. You should not share sensitive data or photos with unknown people

Help your child understand the privacy settings and configure them correctly… This can be done in the app itself or in the access rights management in the Android or iOS operating system (in each case under Settings). In the app, under the category “Privacy”, you can set who sees what and whether or not you want to be invited to groups by strangers. It may happen that certain functions can no longer be used if certain accesses are denied. The Privacy Check function gives a good overview of the settings. At www.medien-kindersicher.de there are Video instructions on how to safely set WhatsApp on your child’s smartphone.

Talk to your children about communication risks and how they can protect themselves from them. Encourage them to let you know right away if they feel they are not being treated right or are being bullied.

Encourage your child to only contact people they know in real life. Warn against adding unknown contacts. Also, be mindful of your child’s privacy and give your child the space he or she needs. Set a good example yourself by being responsible and respectful with your own digital activities.

Wenn Sie einen Messenger nutzen möchten, der mehr Datensicherheit bietet, lesen Sie unsere Toolbeschreibungen zu Signal und Threema.

Audio boxes: Square, practical, good!?

A life without Benjamin Blümchen, My Friend Connie and the Grüffelo is unthinkable, especially for younger children. You probably remember your own favorite cassettes or radio play CDs from your childhood. As a modern variant of the classic listening media, there are nowadays so-called listening boxes. But what exactly can Tonie, Tigerbox and Co. actually do?

What are audio boxes?

Listening boxes, also called music boxes, are available from various suppliers. Depending on the manufacturer, the prices differ, but are mostly under 100, – €. When you buy a box, stories are often included. However, if you want more audio stories or songs for your child, there may be subsequent costs.

The boxes all work on a similar principle: they are child-friendly and usually designed like a cube. Above all, they are easy to use. Colorful pens or figurines in the form of animals that you plug into the audio box, or connect via Bluetooth, can play all kinds of stories. You can also get creative yourself and record (your own) stories.

What benefits does the listening box offer my child?

Listening boxes are specially designed to meet the needs and motor skills of younger children and are designed not to break quickly. The few functions are easy to perform, so your child can operate the box independently. Selecting and starting stories themselves, pausing, stopping or exchanging them as needed – the young users can do all this on their own. Children as young as about two years old can operate the devices intuitively. This can boost your child’s self-confidence.

Some boxes offer the possibility to set a time limit. This will help your child stick to agreed upon listening times.

Audio boxes can be used to play audio games and music, whether for entertainment or to learn new things. If the stories are stored on animal figures or similar, these figures can also be used as toys.

As a parent, what should you be aware of?

Find out about the different listening boxes to decide which one is right for your child. What is the right shape? Are the stories stored on some kind of USB stick or does the box always have to be connected to the Internet? How much do new stories cost?

Research what age the stories you want to listen to with the box are appropriate for. Since your child can also use the listening box on his or her own, an age-appropriate selection is especially important. Also inquire about the data protection of the respective box: What private data is collected? How is the personal information of the users protected?

We present the most popular boxes in more detail on the Parents’ Guide: Tigerbox, Toniebox and Hörbert.

An audio box does not replace the togetherness of your own reading aloud: Regularly take the time to read to your child from their favorite book or listen to the audio stories from the box together.

Game sites on the net – between fun, games and advertising

Digital games are a popular pastime among children and young people. People also like to play via the Internet. There are various game sites on the net where children can play, some for free and some for a fee. Beim Spiel allein oder im Team werden verschiedene Fähigkeiten gefördert, aber vor allem sogenannte Multiplayer-Spiele bergen auch Gefahren wie Mobbing.

Free sites with lots of advertising and questionable data protection

Many games portals that are particularly popular with children and young people, such as spielaffe.de, are financed by advertising. This is the only way they can offer the games for free. In return, children are confronted with many advertisements and links to external partners. Not every child is able to distinguish advertising from the actual content of the website and may thus unintentionally end up on other pages.

Play monkey is not made specifically for children. Not all games are suitable for every age of child, but still achievable. One problem here is that games that are offered online do not yet have to be provided with an age rating.

Younger children in particular are likely to be overwhelmed by the wide range of products and the many colorful pictures and buttons on spielaffe.de. The chat with other users is only possible after prior registration – but you can also play without registration. The section with information for parents and children on how to use the site safely is hard to find – at the very bottom left.

Even if Spielaffe does not collect data directly, data is collected and passed on via the integrated external pages, such as Facebook. The situation is similar at spielzwerg.de and spielkarussell.de. When registering, parents are not asked whether they agree that their children who are not yet of age can play here.

Many of the games offered on such portals also work with outdated gender stereotypes. There is often a category “girl games”, where you can find games about household or beauty. None of the three websites are displayed directly in a search with the fragFINN child search engine. Websites that are otherwise harmless for children can be found via fragFINN.

What you should pay attention to as a parent

Despite all the risks, children and young people like to use these sites – certainly also because of the large selection of games. Try to understand your child’s fascination with these sites and show interest without ignoring the dangers. Help your child recognize advertising and agree on rules for using such sites. Install ad blockers and check out what educators have to offer and what they think. Online services such as the initiative Gutes Aufwachsen mit Medien (Growing up well with media ) or the Seitenstark community offer help here. You can find pedagogically valuable offers via fragFINN, among others.

Children photos on the net

Kids photos are great! They show without big words how colorful, funny, exciting and chaotic everyday life with children can be. Thanks to smartphones, beautiful moments can be captured easily and quickly and shared with family and friends. In a few seconds the cute snapshot of the baby with the first porridge on his face is over Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp shared

Cute, funny photos – often questionable from a child rights perspective

What parents find cute and share with the world can have quite unpleasant consequences for children (later). Even if you as a parent like all the photos of your child, put yourself in your child’s shoes! You probably don’t like yourself in every photo either. From the point of view of children’s rights, photos of children on the Internet are questionable, because too often they are posted without their consent. Just like adults, children have a right to privacy (Art. 16, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the right to their own image, and thus the freedom to decide for themselves in principle what and how much they reveal about themselves.

Do not underestimate the fact that information and images are quickly spread on the net and can be found easily and for an unlimited period of time. Although a photo is deleted from the profile or blog, the shots may continue to circulate. Others can copy, alter and redistribute them. Children’s images can be misused for pedophile purposes or unflattering images can increase the risk of cyberbullying. It is therefore all the more important that you, as adults, deal consciously and considerately with your child’s personal rights on the Internet.

But does that mean no one is allowed to post a child’s photo anymore?

No, it doesn’t have to mean that! Children are part of our society and therefore they should be visible – also in the digital world. The decisive factor is how children are portrayed: In which situations can you see your child in the photo? Can you see the face clearly? Who can see photos when you post them? If you follow a few rules, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a child’s photo while preserving your child’s privacy rights. Not to be forgotten is the child’s right to participation (Art. 12, UN CRC), which is why it is important to involve children in an age-appropriate way and obtain their consent. We have summarized specific guidance on publishing children’s photos by age group. In the links below you will find the appropriate text for your child’s age.

Tips for the dissemination of photos of babies and young children

Tips for sharing photos of children of (primary) school age

The Internet Phenomenon Challenges: From Entertaining and for a Good Cause to Reckless and Dangerous

They are among the most popular online formats among children and young people: Pranks and challenges. For example, people film themselves imitating the dances of characters from the game Fortnite. Or in the #CelebLookAlike challenge , friends are asked who looks like which famous person.

Challenges exist on almost all social networks. They are particularly popular with TikTok. Challenges can be fun and get attention for a specific cause. However, it can sometimes be dangerous when younger people in particular try to imitate certain challenges.

What is behind the Internet phenomenon Challenge?

This Internet phenomenon probably became known through the Ice Bucket Challenge, in which participants poured a bucket of ice water over their heads to draw attention to the disease ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge served a good cause. Challenges can also have other functions and backgrounds. People take on various challenges, record the whole thing on video and then upload it to social networks.

It’s hard to imagine TikTok without challenges. While in the beginning mainly dances or certain songs were imitated, today there are no limits. The idea behind so-called hashtag challenges is to post your own interpretation of the challenge and tag the video with the hashtag as well. These videos go viral within hours and are shared and imitated by users all over the world. Companies are also taking advantage of this by initiating hashtag challenges to gain more awareness among young people.

Some challenges are for pure entertainment. In the #LevelUpChallenge, pets are filmed overcoming certain hurdles. Other challenges pursue a good cause, like the #cleansnap challenge. Here, a place polluted by trash was to be filmed before and after the cleanup. TikTok donated for each uploaded video to the environmental protection association Wings of the ocean.

What attracts young people to challenges

Adolescents find it exciting to compete with others and imitate things. This does not have to happen in a video, but can also be in everyday life, at home or at school. In the schoolyard, people dance or try to imitate the water bottle flip.

Certain challenges can give young users a strong sense of community and belonging. Through likes and comments, they give each other feedback and make contact with each other. Recognition and thrills are also reasons for young people to take part in challenges.

Challenges are an integral part of many social media communities and are also participated in by influencers. This encourages their young followers to join and follow the trend.

When challenges become dangerous

Not every challenge is harmless. There are also dangerous and risky challenges. This becomes a problem when young people are asked to imitate, unaware of the danger. Challenges that ask you to lose weight or eat things that aren’t meant to be eaten are just two examples.

“Meeting” like-minded people and the goal of proving something to themselves or getting attention are reasons why young people also get involved in dangerous challenges. So-called hoaxes are often behind these dangerous challenges. These are made up stories that are spread as a challenge. Children and young people are encouraged to engage in risky activities because something bad will supposedly happen otherwise. In the end, the hoax challenges themselves are dangerous. Read more about this in our article on chain letters.

Tips for dealing with challenges

Social media providers occasionally delete dangerous content, but that doesn’t stop other risky challenges from trending. On YouTube and TikTok it is forbidden to post such pranks and challenges. With TikTok, users receive a warning directly when supposedly risky challenge videos appear in the feed. There are also educational videos about it.

The most important tips at a glance:

  • If your child enjoys watching such videos on the web, have them show you and tell you what excites them about them.
  • Make clear that some challenges are not suitable for imitation and that much content is staged; explain why some challenges are dangerous (injuries but also psychological damage)
  • Talking about types of challenges (eating unknown things that you don’t know how they will affect you, risky athletic stunts, experimenting with fire, for example), but not naming specific challenges
  • Use caution and thoughtfulness when warning other parents about challenges; do not spread them around in the process; alarmist warnings can cause fear instead of helping

Keep an open mind about fun, harmless, or even helpful challenges. You may also want to take on such challenges together with the whole family.

Popular games: Grand Theft Auto (GTA)

Grand Theft Auto (GTA for short) is a computer game series very popular among young people. The first-person shooter is only released from 18 years – so not suitable for children and teenagers. 

In a nutshell:

  • Action game from first person perspective in a fictional world
  • Numerous contents not suitable for children and young people (violence, prostitution, etc.)
  • Multi-player mode with the possibility of exchanging with each other
  • Game for PC, Playstation, Sony PSP and Xbox or as a complementary game app

What is Grand Theft Auto?

GTA V (5) is the latest version of the popular game series. In the fall 2021 three older parts of the GTA series (GTA 3, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas) were released for PC and newer consoles (
Switch

Xbox X/S
 and 
PS5
) re-released.
In all parts of the series, the player takes on the role of a criminal and has to complete missions and tasks in a fictional city. The character moves through a vast, open 3D world and has to commit a bank robbery or steal a car, for example. Through the First-person perspective and the realistic graphics immerse players particularly deep into the world   and can feel the game is very real. 

The game is also available as online multiplayer (
GTA Online
), where players move together in the world and communicate with each other. 
communicate
 can. 

What fascinates young people about the computer game?

Among 14 to 17 year olds, the GTA among the most popular games. The game is very exciting, because gamers can do almost anything in the game and always have to complete new, very different tasks. The competitive nature and playing together with other “like-minded people” in the online multiplayer mode makes gamers stick with it. For 
GTA Online
 there is regularly new game content that can be downloaded, such as new missions or vehicles. 

Young people can experience new things in computer games. This also includes the fact that they can test and cross boundaries here – in a fictional world without consequences. With such a game, some teenagers already feel older than they actually are. They prove to themselves and each other that they can already play such a game and endure the content, even if they are actually still too young. 

What is problematic about the offer?

The game sometimes depicts violence very drastically, even without it being necessary for the gameplay. Particularly problematic are Violence and Torture scenes and the questionable portrayals of women. For this reason, the USK comes to a Age rating of 18 years. Minors are therefore not allowed to be sold or given access to the game. Despite or because of this clear regulation, young people try to play the game and may come into contact with content and presentation that is not suitable for their age. The consequence can cause anxiety, abut also a permanently distorted image of women, for example. its. 

What does the provider think?

Grand Theft Auto is one of the most successful games worldwide and is considered a cult game in the gaming scene. Since GTA V ‘s online mode is only available if you have Purchased the game and accordingly  has proven his age, the provider is not obliged to take any further protective measures. As a result, retailers, online game stores and, ultimately, you as a parent are responsible for this. 

What should parents pay attention to?

Although not every child is equally and differently developed, parents should consider the Age ratings take seriously. These are determined by experienced examiners in controlled test procedures. When accessing games online, make use of the technical setting options, e.g., in the 
Game console
. 

Of course, it is impossible to completely avoid the possibility that your child may come into contact with the game through friends or other means. Talk to your child about first-person shooters and computer games if you know they are being used. Content and its impact should also be discussed and it should be made clear that not everything corresponds to social reality. 

Peer pressure can also make your child eager to try the game. Confer with other parents and consider join with them a joint course of action. 

Twitch – the streaming platform for gamers

Do you know Let’s Plays? These are videos in which people play games, for example on YouTube show. The Twitch.tv platform, which is very popular with children and young people, works in the same way in principle, except that here you can watch live how others play. For young gamers, the portal is a must.

In a nutshell:

  • Streaming platform, mainly for live transmission of video games
  • Age rating according to GTC: from 18 years – or from 13 years under supervision of a parent
  • Registration required for own streams only
  • Available for free as an app, as well as a browser version and application for game consoles
  • Contains advertising and various paid features

What is Twitch?

Twitch is the largest livestreaming portal for streaming and watching games. The site is similar in principle to other video portals. Users can visit channels or the stream of a particular digital game. In doing so, they do not have to register.

Only registered users can broadcast the game they are playing live to an audience. They usually use webcam and microphone to comment on their own game at the same time. The chat function allows players and viewers to communicate with each other in real time. A game is often watched by more than 10,000 people. Those who have enough viewers can place advertisements. The proceeds from this will be split between Twitch and the streaming gamer. Individual channels can also be subscribed to for a fee, and there is an option to donate money to a gamer during the livestream.

The games most frequently shown on Twitch are also otherwise very popular, e.g. Fortnite , Leagues of Legend , Counterstrike and Minecraft . eSports events are also broadcast on Twitch. Most of the content on Twitch is from users, but there is also professionally produced material. Besides the main theme of games, other content is also shown on Twitch. There are streams for programming, drawing, crafting and many other everyday things.

Why is Twitch so exciting for young people?

On Twitch, young people can share their computer gaming hobby with others and experience it live from a different perspective. They can interact directly with their gaming idols and improve their skills in a particular game. For gamers it is interesting, because they can show their skills and also earn money.

What can be problematic about the offer?

Those who have access to the Internet can also use Twitch, since no registration is required to watch. Therefore, children and teenagers can watch streaming of games that are not yet suitable for them according to the age restriction. According to the terms and conditions, the offer can only be used from the age of 13 and then only with parental supervision. However, this becomes relevant at most when registering for your own streams or interacting with gamers. There is no check to see if the age entered during registration is correct.

Your child may encounter violent, scary, and sexualized content. For this reason, the Jugendschutz has classified the platform as unsuitable for children and young people.

Advertising on Twitch is difficult to detect. This is also due to the fact that more and more gamers are becoming influencers. Young users often do not recognize personal game recommendations as advertising.

The integrated donation function should also be viewed critically. When viewers transfer money to their favorite players during the livestream, the gamer comments on it at the same time. This kind of personal feedback can tempt younger users in particular to donate money using their parents’ PayPal account details.

Since users who only watch livestreams do not have to register, there is a risk, especially among young streamers, that (strange) adults will make contact and that cybergrooming will occur.

What does the provider say?

Twitch Interactive, Inc. has existed since June 2011 (at that time still under the name Justin.tv) and has been part of Amazon since 2014. So there is an interest in collecting user data to make personalized advertising. The privacy policy is available in German and states exactly how and for what purpose the service collects personal data. The safety instructions are also available in German. Twitch offers a reporting function so that people who violate the community guidelines in the stream or chat can be reported by other users. After review by a moderation team, inappropriate content will be deleted.

As soon as a video is clicked in which a game with age restriction is played, there is a notice. However, this can be easily clicked away.

What should parents pay attention to?

Because of the risks mentioned, you should accompany your child when he or she uses the service, or at least talk to him or her about it regularly. Talk to him about the platform and look at it together. Research the age ratings for each game and stick to them. Also, make your child aware that as a streamer, they should not post personal information as Twitch can share it. Use the option in the settings to disable communication with strangers.

Being a role model from the start – how babies and toddlers learn to use media

You are reading a story to your child and suddenly the phone beeps to announce a new WhatsApp message. What do you do? Do you automatically reach for your smartphone or do you read the message later when the child is asleep?

Such situations probably exist in every family. When the little son then reaches for the smartphone, it is said: “That’s not for you yet!”.

Learning through observation

Be aware that parents and also other adults have an important role model function for children. Children experience how you, as their closest caregivers, deal with digital media and orient themselves to this. This is how children learn how the world works and how to behave in certain situations. Your behavior therefore has a major impact on how your child uses media themselves. By actively setting an example of what good media use can look like, you help your child learn to use smartphones and the like independently, sensibly and consciously.

Especially for younger children, parents are number one. It is especially important for babies and toddlers to recognize your attention through direct eye contact and to build a good bond. When dad is constantly looking at his smartphone, it’s not possible. Children, even at a young age, notice this. The older children get, the more they emulate you. In toddlerhood, they reach for daddy’s smartphone or speak into a brick that has a similar shape. They realize early on how important this device is for adults or older siblings.

Be a good role model

Create a good basis for a reflective approach to media right from the start. Keep the smartphone on silent in your pocket when you play with your child, so that they don’t get the impression that the smartphone is always more important. Later, your child may behave the same way. If it does get pulled out, explain to your child why.

There are certainly moments when the smartphone is needed to take a nice photo of your offspring. Capture beautiful moments with the camera! But think about how often that has to be. After all, your child would rather look you in the eye than constantly at the smartphone in front of your face.

Spending time together with media is also part of family life. Introduce your child to it slowly and choose age-appropriate content. However, such media experiences should always alternate with media-free times.

Through it all, be aware of your role as a role model!

YouTube in the family

Your child also admires one or more YouTube stars and would love to watch videos all the time? Then we have a few tips on how to regulate YouTube usage in your family. Note that not every tip is appropriate for every age of child.

Our tips for all ages

  • Media time: Depending on your child’s age, arrange fixed YouTube times when he or she is allowed to watch videos. Discuss possible consequences if times are ever not met. For example, you can use a media usage agreement.
  • Commercial breaks: YouTubers usually earn money with their videos in the form of embedded advertising. The currency on YouTube is attention: the more subscribers a YouTuber or YouTuberess has and the more clicks a video has, the more advertising revenue is generated. Explain to your child how money is made through their behavior on YouTube.
  • YouTube stars are often so-called influencers. Sponsored content or product placements can be difficult for adolescents to recognize and see through.

Our tips for toddlers and children of primary school age

  • Security settings: YouTube is not a platform for children, even if a lot of content there is exciting for them. To prevent your child from viewing inappropriate, offensive or cruel videos, enable YouTube parental controls with the “restricted mode” option. You can find detailed instructions here.
  • Video Playback: If your child is allowed to watch more than one video, add the selected videos to the playlist so that you decide and know which video will play next.
  • Child-friendly offer: For younger children – up to elementary school age – we recommend the YouTube Kids app.

Our tips for teenagers

  • Popular offers: Show interest and stay in the conversation! Have a conversation with your child about what excites them about YouTube and its stars. Let them show you videos and explain the fascination with them without giving the impression that you are trying to control your son or daughter.
  • YouTube account: Discuss with your child what it means to register on YouTube to leave comments or upload your own YouTube videos. According to the GTC, users of the platform in Germany must be at least 16 years old. With your consent, use by children over the age of 13 is also possible. You can use Family Link to create and manage a Google Account for your minor child until they are old enough. Controlling a child’s YouTube use with a parent’s Google account – called parental controls – is possible but still in the testing phase. Read more directly on the pages of YouTube. There are also certain guidelines and laws that must be observed – such as copyright and the right to one’s own image. For more tips to keep in mind if your child wants to be an active YouTube creator, check out our post My child wants to be a YouTuber – now what?

In all linked articles you will find more information. These can be helpful if you want to share YouTube with your family.

Telegram

Telegram is a messenger service like WhatsApp , Signal Although the messenger is considered relatively privacy-protected compared to others, Telegram has come under criticism for spreading fake news and conspiracy narratives.

In a nutshell:

  • free messenger for smartphone, tablet or PC
  • secret chats with “self-destruct timer” possible
  • Cell phone number hidden for strangers, traceable by username
  • Creation of groups, channels and bots
  • Minimum age according to GTC: 16 years (age information in the app stores: from 17 or 18 years).

What is Telegram?

Telegram is a free messenger service that advertises particularly high security and speed. Anyone who wants to use the app must register once with a cell phone number by calling or texting. Afterwards, an account can be used across an unlimited number of devices. It is also possible to create a user name.

Telegram offers features like other messenger services: sending (and editing) images, videos, audio files and emojis. It can also be used to conduct surveys. Another special feature of Telegram is the creation of public groups and the subscription to (thematic) channels: Messages can be sent to an unlimited number of users, but only the channel creator and the administrators are allowed to write.

In so-called “secret chats”, messages are not stored on the provider’s servers. This is to prevent messages from being intercepted and read in any form. The “self-destruct function”, with which a message automatically disappears from the sender and recipient after a set time, also contributes to this.

What makes Telegram interesting for young people?

As with WhatsApp you can get in touch with others quickly and free of charge via Telegram. Especially the exchange in groups makes Telegram interesting. For older teenagers, contact with like-minded people in Telegram groups could also be exciting and problematic at the same time.

What is problematic about the offer?

Despite encryption and secret messages, the app has some pitfalls: The end-to-end encryption ensures that messages can only be read by the chat participants, but must first be activated. In addition, all communication content, with the exception of secret chats, is permanently visible to the operator and is stored on its servers.

Because of its subscribable channels and groups, Telegram is popular and criticized in equal measure. Institutions such as newspapers can use it to send out regular updates. But these groups also bring together people who exchange and spread right-wing ideas or other extreme opinions among themselves. Also listen to an episode of the youth podcast “What’s up…?”.

As with similar apps, contact risks such as sexting, cyberbullying and the spreading of so-called fake news cannot be ruled out. Registering with a username poses a particular risk: This is public, so that even people who do not have the cell phone number can contact you. The messenger also requires access to the address book and contacts are permanently stored on Telegram servers.

What does the provider think?

The Russian provider advertises data protection and privacy. In addition to the encryptions, there is, for example, the option to secure the app with code or fingerprint. Telegram is also open source, which means that anyone can see how the app is programmed and how the security measures work. The app is also to remain free of charge and advertising at all times.

Before you register, you must also agree to the Terms of Use. These require a minimum age of 16. In addition, the users undertake not to use the service for sending spam or cheating, not to promote violence and not to publish illegal pornographic content. However, it is unclear whether and how compliance with these conditions will be verified.

What should parents pay attention to?

Before your child uses a messenger like Telegram, you should talk to him about communication rules and possible dangers. Consider beforehand what speaks for Telegram or whether another service would be better. If it is to be Telegram , refrain from registering with a public username.

When is a lot too much? Between addiction and extreme media use

It is not uncommon for the use of cell phones, tablets and the like to lead to arguments in the family. Surely you are familiar with the discussions about how long the child is allowed to play on the tablet. Many parents worry that it’s unhealthy for their child to spend too much time with digital media. But at what point is way too much and constant media use already addiction?

Why do children and young people often spend so much time on the Internet?

Apart from the fun factor, there are some psychological aspects that make it hard for us to put the tablet or game console aside again. For example, many computer games, whether played on a smartphone or a console, do not have a set ending. The things we do in everyday life usually have a beginning and an end and we turn to something else after that. That’s not usually the case with games. Your child could theoretically play endlessly from level to level. Each level becomes more challenging and your child gets the ambition to pass the next level as well.

It’s a similar story with messenger services and social networks. About WhatsApp, Instagram, etc., we are always reachable and can communicate with others quickly and easily at any time. Social networks are specially designed to keep us on the platform for a long time by always displaying (new) information through scrolling. This can also influence the mood of the users. And when your son or daughter posts a picture on Instagram and gets likes and positive comments on it, it acts like a social reward. It activates the same areas in the brain as eating candy or taking drugs.

What should parents pay attention to?

Let me say right away: There is no such thing as an “Internet addiction”! But certain things and activities on the Internet can be addictive. However, to speak of addiction is often not correct at all, because there is more to it than spending a lot of time with one thing. If you want to know more about it, read this post by Quarks.

As a parent, you should be aware that excessive use of certain media is not uncommon among children and young people at times – for example, in times of a pandemic or during puberty. However, if your child’s behavior with certain media seems conspicuous over a longer period of time and causes you concern, you should observe your child closely and take action if necessary.

The most important tip for dealing with media is: Talk to your child about what media he or she uses and why. Show interest and stay in the conversation about what your child’s current favorite game is, what videos they like to watch, what platforms they’re on, and what’s so great about them. Sharing can prevent problematic behavior. Explain to your child what platforms like Instagram work to keep users with them as long as possible.

If your child’s media use seems uncontrolled and too much, and your son prefers to sit in front of the screen instead of meeting friends, you should agree on fixed media times together. Extreme mood swings before, during and after using certain media or neglecting school and friends are also indicative of problematic use. It may also mean that your child is not yet ready to use media completely independently. Which is not to say that media should be off-limits. Guide your child in their use and agree on rules about when they can use what media.

If you are at a loss and your child’s problematic behavior continues, you and your child also have the option of visiting addiction counseling centers at any time.

You should also monitor and investigate whether there may be other reasons behind constant media use. For example, your child may want to distract himself from other problems by playing computer games. Seek discussion with your child and get outside help if necessary!

The German Children’s Fund’s Children’s Report 2021 also deals with media addiction and how children, young people and adults perceive excessive media use.

Cyberbullying

Almost everyone knows the term. This refers to insulting, exposing or threatening people via the Internet and smartphone, e.g. via apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp or Instagram. But not every message or post on a social media profile with the content “Martin is dumb!” endangers your child’s development.

Bullying takes place everywhere

Bullying has not just existed since social media came into existence. But since almost everyone has a smartphone these days, it doesn’t stop for them when they get out of school in the afternoon. Children and young people are in quasi constant contact with each other, e.g. via class chat on WhatsApp.

Bullying is mostly cyberbullying at the same time, because some people dare to spread mean thing about others and insult them more via cell phone. Sometimes disputes or bullying start in class or in the schoolyard and get worse via communication on the net.

What is cyberbullying?

  • Bullying takes place via digital media and social media platforms.
  • Most often, the intention is to deliberately harm a person. With cyberbullying, the “bullies” may not even realize they have gone too far. What was meant as fun can have negative consequences.
  • Since content can be stored and shared unnoticed, a single publication is enough to cause long-term damage.
  • It is not always clear who is behind it, because you can also post insults anonymously.
  • It’s much easier to insult someone with a smartphone message than to say an insult directly to their face and get the reaction.

What you can do against bullying?

There are people who behave less socially on the Internet than usual. If you show your child that rules of friendly interaction also apply online, hopefully others will behave in the same way. You can talk to other parents about making certain rules apply to everyone.

When children and young people communicate with each other, there are always times when insults are used. This does not have to be bullying, but is often just a joke. They use it to test how far they can go. However, this limit is different for each child.

Regularly ask what your child is doing online, talk to him about possible risks. Be responsive when it encounters problems. Show him ways to block individual users in the apps. On portals like juuuport, your child can get in touch with peers if he or she is afraid to tell you about problems online.

If you notice that your child withdraws and no longer meets friends, you should carefully ask what is behind it. If you are concerned about being bullied, you can contact the classroom teacher. If it really is bullying, be sure to preserve the evidence on your child’s phone, such as screenshots. Certain behaviors associated with bullying – such as threatening, defaming, and disseminating photos of others – are even punishable by law.

In case of massive threats, you should definitely go to the police. You should also report bullying incidents on the platforms where they occurred.

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No, this is not a disease! – How Influencers Influence Teens

Names like Lisa and Lena, Melina Sophie or Julien Bam come up often at your house and you know for sure that they are not friends of your child? Then your son or daughter probably has a crush on an Internet star or influencer.

Young people in particular often spend several hours a day on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or TikTok. In doing so, they look at videos and photos of people they don’t know personally, but about whom they nevertheless know a lot and on whom they orient themselves. These so-called influencers report on their supposed everyday life in pictures or videos and deal with topics such as fashion, beauty or gaming. Influencers often have a presence on multiple social media platforms. Athletes, models and pop stars are also active as influencers.

Contact with fans

Fans or followers or subscribers communicate with their stars: they answer surveys, respond to calls, such as challenges, or like and comment on posts. So they feel like they are somehow connected to the influencers.

The most famous influencers have an enormous reach from thousands of followers to an audience of millions: the twins Lisa and Lena have as more than 15 million subscribers on Instagram and over 10 million followers on TikTok. YouTuber Bianca “Bibi” Heinicke from BibisBeautyPalace has 5.9 million subscribers and Julian Bam 5.7 million.

Adults often miss out on this trend. For many young people, influencers are role models and have a great influence on them – hence the term influencer. They are often the same age as their fans or just a few years older and appear to act naturally, so that their followers trust them and seek advice as if they were their big siblings.

Advertising and marketing through influencers

Companies have recognized the value of influencers and use both the platforms and their stars for marketing purposes. In the photos and videos of the Instagramer one sees directly or also only “incidentally” products like beauty articles or clothes of certain brands. Companies also often use influencers to boost the credibility and popularity of a brand. What looks like a personal recommendation from a famous influencer is often advertising.

The boundaries between one’s own opinion and advertising are blurring and becoming difficult to discern. This is mainly because not all influencers mark their posts with “advertising” or “advertisement”, even though this is actually mandatory. It is unclear whether the influencer bought the product in question himself or was paid to hold it up to the camera.

Children and young people don’t necessarily realize this or take a less critical view of it, as they want to emulate their online idols and are easily influenced by them. For example, if influencers dress a certain way, kids and teens associate those brands with their stars and want to dress the same way.

Influencers as role models

It seems so easy to succeed and make money as an influencer. That’s why many children and young people want to become YouTubers or influencers themselves. But the photos and videos posted don’t show the work behind a life as an influencer.

Young followers are not only influenced by topics such as fashion and lifestyle. Influencers portray themselves in certain ways, often embellished by filters and poses. They are mostly pretty, slim, athletic and successful. You have to look hard on social media for role models who don’t look perfect and ideal. Young people hardly ever come into contact with it. You can read more about this in our article Diversity and Role Models in Social Media.

Social media platforms are also used to inform and express opinions. That’s why influencers who want to politically motivate young followers or even convince them of their extreme views also cavort there. If your child begins to take an interest in social issues such as environmental protection or equal rights as a result, this is certainly a positive thing. But there are not always good intentions behind it: Quite inconspicuously, certain influencers, e.g. in a cooking video, influence their audience by interspersing derogatory comments about certain groups of people or persons that actually have nothing to do with the video content.

Here’s what you can do if your child is “infected

Don’t judge your child’s stars. You probably also had a crush on a star as a teenager that your parents thought was stupid. You don’t have to like your child’s influencers, but should try to understand what your child likes about them. Show interest and ask which people your child follows on Instagram and Co. Together, question what the influencer is showing in the posts and what could be behind it.

It is normal to look for role models when you are in the process of developing your own personality. Encourage your child to think about it and be available as a point of contact if he or she has questions.

Our colleagues from klicksafe have summarized the phenomenon of influencers in a video by #Elterninformiert.

Communication via media – what is important to young people

Talking to others, talking on the phone with friends and family, writing or looking and smiling at each other – communication is a basic human need! Young people prefer to exchange information via apps and social networks on their smartphones. They share experiences and experiences and process them in this way. They learn to resolve conflicts without parental support, to form their own opinions and to defend them. Friendships are cultivated by being in constant contact with each other.

Communication via messenger

Messenger apps are the most popular for communication. Most often used WhatsApp but also alternatives such as the Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Signal or Threema have many installed.

Communication via smartphones is a matter of course for young people and takes up a large part of their everyday lives. The smartphone is always at hand and represents a kind of social meeting place. Both in one-on-one chats and in group chats, opinions, pictures, and videos are exchanged, arguments are had, and jokes are made.

Being connected to friends via messenger creates a sense of belonging for young people.communicating via it seems private. However, the groups are often so large that there is no longer any question of privacy. The more anonymous group chats become, the greater the risk that they will be misused to spread false news and manipulate opinions. Another danger is that photos can be stored and sent unnoticed on other people’s devices. As convenient as messengers are, they also harbor risks – especially because young people send a lot of messages every day. It can cause stress if your child feels like they have to respond to messages immediately or is afraid they’ll miss something if they don’t look at their phone.

However, young people do not always act socially when they communicate with each other in messenger groups. Since you do not see the reaction of your counterpart directly and you want to impress others, insults are not uncommon. Under certain circumstances, this can lead to cyberbullying.

Communication via Instagram & Co.

Also via social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok is communicated. Often, this type of sharing is limited to pictures and videos and liking or commenting. This communication is especially important when it comes to self-expression and recognition. Selfies are sent and you expect a positive reaction from your followers, who are mostly friends and acquaintances. However, stress or insults may occur here as well.

It is also common among gamers to exchange information while gaming – for example, via channels such as Discord and Teamspeak.

It is precisely via platforms that strangers can also write to young people in order to make closer contact with them. This can be harmless, but criminal, e.g. pedophilic intentions, can also be behind it.

What you should pay attention to as a parent

As convenient as communication via the Internet is, potential risks should be known. Ask your child what channels they use and who they chat with. However, be mindful of his or her privacy and give your child the space he or she needs. Agree on security rules, e.g. which pictures and videos may be sent via which route. Advise your child to post certain photos only on private channels or groups. Be responsive to uncertainties and problems.

If you are concerned about the security of your child’s data, just compare the terms of individual messengers. What happens to the data there? Is the communication encrypted? Which messengers are considered secure? In the terms of use of many of these apps, an age of 13 or even 16 is required to sign up. If your child is under the age of majority, you must consent to its use. Perhaps discuss with other parents and consider working together to find a privacy-friendly alternative to WhatsApp can be installed.

With younger children, you can go through the Messenger settings together. Disabling read receipts takes the pressure off, so your son or daughter doesn’t have to feel like they have to respond to a message right away. Pay attention to who your child can chat with and show them the function to block contacts.

You can agree on rules for communicating with your child, setting a good standard for your child’s exchanges with friends.

Dealing with photos of school children on the web

It is exciting and beautiful to follow how your own child grows and develops. Thanks to smartphones, growing up can be permanently documented and shared with others. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind for the sake of your child. Answering the following questions will help you decide how to handle photos of your school-aged child.

How do I want my child to be portrayed in public?

Your child is probably used to being photographed from an early age. Maybe it likes it, but maybe not always and not in every situation. Be mindful of when and how you photograph your child, especially if you want to share the photo with others. When it comes to forwarding a photo, your child should also be okay with it. Think about whether you would have wanted certain photos of you as a child to circulate on the web.

Children should always be seen clothed in photos and not in a ridiculous or even embarrassing situation. If other children are visible in the photo, you must obtain their parents’ consent.

Consider whether it is always necessary to see your child’s face. We’ve put together some tips on how to take creative photos of children without being completely obvious about the child.

Can I alone decide how my child is portrayed on the web?

Children also have rights. They can and should have a say when it comes to themselves and their well-being. Photos on the web can violate children’s privacy. As a school child, your son or daughter is old enough to understand what it means when photos are shared on the Internet. Talk to him or her about it and don’t decide over his or her head. You should not publish a photo of your child without his or her consent!

If your child later takes and shares photos on their smartphone, they should know what the consequences can be. Educate your child in good time and, as a role model, handle the dissemination of photos sensitively yourself.

How can photos of my child be distributed?

On the one hand, there is the question of the channel through which children’s photos can be shared and what permissions other people have to see these photos. There are platforms where children’s photos are collected from Facebook profiles, for example, and made available to others. Strangers can then use these photos for their own purposes – in the worst case, they are pedophiles.

The more people who can see your child’s photos, e.g. via the status function on WhatsApp, the more likely it is that they can simply be copied and forwarded and thus fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, use the privacy settings on the smartphone and in the respective app so that only a restricted circle can see the photos.

On the other hand, make absolutely sure that children’s photos are not published in combination with other information such as full name, place of residence etc. With the first photo on the web, your child gets a digital identity that becomes more and more pronounced over the years. Your child can’t undo that later.

How do I want others to treat photos of my child?

If grandma and grandpa don’t live nearby, it’s nice for them to still get to see their grandchild grow up. It’s easy to do that with a photo via WhatsApp and the like. Nevertheless, you should agree on rules with family and friends when sharing photos via smartphone. You may consider settling on a messenger like Signal, where photos are not automatically saved to the recipient phone’s photo gallery. You may also agree not to share photos that show your child’s face at all, but only to show them in person.

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