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How to make your child’s smartphone safer

Many children get their own smartphone during their primary school years. With it, they can do different things and have access to the Internet. In addition to many great opportunities, however, it also exposes children to risks. It is particularly important that you talk to your child about possible dangers and make safety settings on the smartphone together.

Privacy

Without your child realizing it, he or she is leaving data trails by using a messenger and other apps, as well as by surfing the web. Explain to your child the various smartphone functions and how to set them sensibly: WLAN, Bluetooth and location should remain switched off by default and only be activated when absolutely necessary. For example, GPS is necessary if your child is looking for directions to a specific location using a map app. Check the app permissions in the settings together with your child. For example, you can avoid apps accessing the camera without reason or sharing data with other devices and networks. Educate your child about online scams, such as spam emails or phishing. Additional security is provided by virus scanner apps that can protect against unwanted viruses and dangers such as data theft, subscription traps or fake offers.

Password protection

It is important to use codes and passwords to ensure secure use of the device and apps. Your child’s cell phone should only be used after entering a code (PIN, swipe code, etc.) to prevent strangers from accessing personal data. Set up secure password protection with your child. This also applies to registration with social media services and apps. Secure passwords consist of at least twelve characters and contain special characters and numbers in addition to letters. Depending on the device, your child’s fingerprint can also be used to unlock the device (e.g. Touch ID on iOS). Tips for creating secure passwords are available – e.g. at Handysektor. For younger children, it is recommended that at least one parent also knows the screen lock combination and password.

Parental control settings on Android and iOS

Security and parental control settings can be made on every smartphone in the settings. Detailed information on this can be found, among other things, in the article on technical youth media protection.

On Android, you can block the installation of apps in the Play Store or set a password for installation or in-app purchases. To do this, activate the parental control settings. You can choose which apps your child can install without a password.

iOS devices offer even more options in their own device settings. Under Screen Time you have the option to set restrictions and assign a separate code for them. You can then, for example, allow or block the use of certain apps and restrict in-app purchases with a password. Movies, music, apps and TV shows with a higher age rating can also be blocked automatically. iOS can automatically filter and hide web content in Safari and apps.

Additional apps are also recommended:

  • JusProg is a state-approved youth protection program that is free of charge, data-saving and ad-free. The software filters Internet addresses and blocks non-age-appropriate websites. The individual settings allow you to adapt the level of protection to the age of your child.
  • For Android devices, there is also Salfeld, which is available for a fee and focuses on time limits and filters as well as the connection of parent and child devices.
  • With the Kids Place app, you can, for example, set a time limit for screen time, only allow the use of certain apps or block unsuitable websites.
  • The Google Family Link app also offers some ways to regulate your child’s cell phone use.

Further tips for safe smartphone use

To avoid cost traps, a tariff with a limited data volume can be useful. Make sure you also make certain settings for your child’s privacy and safety on social media apps and use Instagram safely, for example. Here you can specifically regulate the visibility of your child’s profile and the basic contact options. Some platforms offer a safer alternative mode for minors – e.g. the accompanied mode on TikTok.

We also recommend installing the fragFINN app. This children’s search engine offers a protected surfing area with tested websites. This way you can ensure that your child can only access age-appropriate and safe content, both for school research and for leisure activities.

For more information on safe smartphone settings, it’s worth visiting medien-kindersicher.de. Here you will find helpful, technical protection solutions for all your child’s devices, services and apps explained step by step.

Also remember to carry out regular software updates on your child’s smartphone to close security gaps and minimize the risk of viruses, for example

Accompaniment by the parents

Smartphones come with some features to make chatting, surfing the web and using apps safer for your child. However, these settings on the device or parental control apps are no substitute for parental supervision. Your child should always understand why certain websites or apps should be blocked or why GPS tracking should remain deactivated. Also, always base your control and safety on your child’s age and development. Especially with teens, don’t intrude too much on your child’s privacy. However, always try to stay in conversation with your child and be there as a point of contact for questions or uncertainties.

Monitor my child via Bluetooth tracking?

A button on the jacket, an app on the cell phone – and all parental worries about lost children are a thing of the past once and for all, because the child can simply be tracked in an emergency. Sounds great? But Bluetooth tracking has its pitfalls …

Bluetooth tracking – what is it actually?

The days when children had to mark their paths with breadcrumbs, as in Hansel and Gretel, are over. Today we live in modern media worlds and can track children instead of looking for them. This works, for example, via devices such as smartwatches that locate themselves via GPS and immediately pass on the child’s location to the parents.

But there is another option and that is Bluetooth trackers. The best known are probably the Apple Airtags or Samsung SmartTags, but there are also many other trackers from other providers. These small devices, the size and appearance of key rings, were originally designed to make objects easier to find. If you attach it to your key ring, wallet, bobby car – or even your child – you can locate it via Bluetooth if necessary. The connection between the tracker and smartphone (app) does not work via satellites as with GPS, but directly via radio waves. The tracker connects to an accessible smartphone with a tracker app and can thus determine and send an approximate location. Compared to GPS trackers, Bluetooth trackers are often smaller and lighter, the battery lasts longer and there are no monthly fees. However, they also work somewhat less accurately, especially in the countryside when there are only a few smartphones nearby.

What can be problematic about Bluetooth tracking

Bluetooth trackers are not the magic cure for relaxed childcare.

On the one hand, Bluetooth is not technically the ultimate in searches: the trackers only really work if there are many matching devices in the vicinity. It therefore makes sense to use a popular tracking app, which is also installed on many other smartphones and helps to determine the location. In the forest, for example, they make no sense at all. In addition, they can only transmit an approximate location. For this reason, a specific area must still be searched in large crowds.

On the other hand, the legal situation is still a little unclear. After all, children also have personal rights – and these include the right not to be monitored without their consent. So at the very least, a conversation and the child’s consent are required to fit them with a tracker. There is also the aspect of data economy to consider: if children are constantly sending and receiving Bluetooth data, strangers can also obtain location information that is none of their business.

And then there is the relationship aspect: secretly monitoring a child is not conducive to building trust in the relationship.

To track or not to track – what parents should consider

So what to do when the question of a tracker arises?

Have an open conversation with your child and discuss the arguments and scenarios with them in an age-appropriate manner. There are certainly situations – for example in amusement parks, at events or similar – where a tracker gives both you as parents and your child a certain freedom of movement and security. Anxious children in particular may be able to take more independent steps with a tracker in their pocket. In other, less dangerous moments, your child can also enjoy your trust and learn their own strategies for finding their way around.

In all of this, it is important that your child does not get the feeling that they are being monitored or that you do not trust them. So be sure to talk about the ideas and arguments, possibilities and limitations of trackers – and decide together in which situations they seem useful and helpful to all family members and when not. At around 6 to 7 years of age, you can explain the tracking measure to your child in a child-friendly way.

Coding for kids – learning to program is fun!

Apps, remote-controlled cars, vending machines – our world is increasingly shaped by digital technologies, much of which is programmed. Coding is becoming an increasingly important component of media skills in order to deal confidently with media and IT systems. Age-appropriate apps and programs introduce children to programming in a playful way with interactive games, animations and small coding projects. Let your child get started and conquer the world of ones and zeros at their own pace!

Scratch

Scratch is an image-oriented, visual programming language and an online platform. There is also an app version that can be used offline. The program was developed by the MIT Media Lab especially for children and young people aged 8 to 16 and is designed and moderated by the Scratch Foundation. Scratch enables step-by-step, playful learning of programming. Young programmers can use building blocks to create motion sequences, interactive stories, small games and animations. Scratch is also increasingly being used as a learning medium in schools.

The great thing about Scratch is that your child can let their imagination run wild with characters, sound effects and backgrounds. The ability to create animations and games is extremely engaging and gives your child the opportunity to create their own worlds. Scratch also offers an online community where your child can share coding projects and be inspired by others.

More info: https://scratch.mit.edu/

Scratch Junior

ScratchJr is a programming language for younger children aged 5 to 7 and enables them to create their own interactive stories and games. In the program, children join graphic program blocks together to move figures and make them jump, dance and sing. The characters can be customized in the paint editor and your own voices and sounds can be added. If you like, you can insert photos of yourself and use the program blocks to bring your own characters to life. ScratchJr was inspired by the popular Scratch programming language and impresses younger children with its ease of use and child-friendly design.

More info: https://scratchjr.org

Programming with the mouse

This website is aimed at children from the age of 8 and teaches programming basics in a playful way, inspired by“Die Sendung mit der Maus“. The popular TV character from the show arouses interest in coding and accompanies the children through the program. The web application uses Scratch as a basis, but does not allow you to publish your own project. Programming with the mouse focuses on entertaining games and activities to impart knowledge in an appealing way. The platform offers structured instructions that guide children step by step through the world of programming. Successfully solving tasks boosts children’s self-confidence and is fun. The website promotes creative learning and makes programming accessible to children.

More info: https://programmieren.wdrmaus.de/

Ronja’s robot

Ronja’s Robot introduces children to the exciting world of programming and robotics – in an entertaining way! The app for iOS and Android was developed by the Kinder Forschen foundation and is suitable for children aged 6 to 12. The app consists of two clever games in which Ronja’s robot named Roberta is the superhero of the code!

In the game “Roberta rast”, children playfully explore programming concepts and steer the little robot through the digital garden. In “Speak like Roberta”, children learn the computer language (binary code consisting of 1 and 0) and talk to Roberta.

More info: https://www.meine-forscherwelt.de/spiel/ronjas-roboter

Does your child enjoy the app? For older children, the graphical programming language OPEN Roberta offers an even more in-depth way to enter the world of programming. Creative thinking is encouraged and your child can come up with their own solutions to tricky challenges. Who would have thought that programming could be so creative? Your child can earn badges and rewards in the game and create coding projects together with other children in teamwork.

More info: https://www.meine-forscherwelt.de/fuer-erwachsene/tipps-zur-lernbegleitung/ronjas-roboter

Programming until it gets dark – what should parents bear in mind?

Coding is fun, but your child can also quickly lose track of time. Establish media time rules together with your child. Programming is learned entirely on screen and usually alone. Make sure that your child maintains social contacts and spends time outdoors to compensate. Occasionally your child may become frustrated when they encounter challenges. Program together with your child, encourage and support them – and learn something new yourself. There are now also school and leisure activities where children can learn these programs. With the search engine for children fragFINN you can find offers in your area.

Beauty channels – a portrait of influencers

Radiant skin and shiny hair, perfect nails and stunning make-up – the world of beauty influencers is all about beauty. There is cream and powder, plucking and brushing. And did a lot of shopping.

Beautiful from head to toe? What do beauty influencers actually do?

If you’re wondering what can be designed, cared for and “improved” on such a body, you’ve come to the right place. Beauty influencers know their way around the aisles of a drugstore better than they know their own back pocket. They know what protects against sunburn and what helps afterwards. They know what’s trending this year when it comes to eyebrows and which braid is currently in vogue. You know the difference between foundation and primer. And they are happy to explain it to us.

On the profiles of the beauty declarants, the body becomes a large canvas – and nothing is left to chance. The topics range from basic body care and dealing with minor and major “problems” to elaborate make-up and hair tutorials or dealing with cosmetic surgery.

Who are the beauty influencers?

Since 2012, Dagmar Kazakov alias Dagi Bee has been active on social media channels since 2012 and reaches her YouTube -channel reaches almost 4 million viewers. The Düsseldorf native publishes a mix of fun videos, vlogs and beauty and make-up tutorials. Her videos always give the impression that she is passing on tips to her best friend, seemingly taking her followers right into her private life, inviting them to accompany her on her “pregnancy journey” or taking video tours of her home, which is very approachable and appealing, especially for younger viewers. Dagi Bee not only sells cosmetic products but also oat milk.

The profile is a little more specific xskincare . Biology student Leon takes an in-depth look at the subject of skin care. Around 2019, Leon says he was looking for products to treat his acne – and because no one could help him, he quickly became an expert himself. Almost 1 million people now follow him and learn from him what to do for large pores, reddened skin or fall weather. Leon particularly likes to test products and “expose” less good offers while promoting his own product line.

There is plenty of color in the face at Paula Wolf . Since 2018, the “make-up artist” has been posting videos on social media in which she elaborately designs her face – sometimes with “normal” make-up, but sometimes she also transforms herself into the Grinch, a Disney character or an animal in front of the camera. 6.5 million followers watch her on YouTube alone – and are of course always offered her extensive range of products.

Very classically presented Maxim Giacomo presents make-up tutorials on his profiles: the Berliner recreates the looks of stars, explains how to draw the perfect eyebrow and tests the drugstore to find the perfect eyeshadow. Again, of course, never without warmly recommending their own products.

What fascinates children and young people about the concentrated beauty?

For children and young people in particular, there is a lot in it: On the way to adulthood, not only the body changes, but also the view of it. Young people are often in search of their own identity, also in terms of their appearance. They are more aware of beauty ideals from the media and their peer group and are looking for their own way when it comes to body care and design. How can changing skin be cared for? How do I achieve a certain look? What do I find beautiful, what not? These questions inevitably arise – and beauty influencers offer answers.

Children and young people not only receive instructions, explanations and offers on the way to their own body and self-image, but the appropriate shopping list is also provided.

What should parents pay attention to?

When the range of tubes and jars in the bathroom suddenly explodes and a fixed place has to be set up next to the mirror for the tutorial running on the smartphone, this can sometimes seem a little disconcerting for parents. Depending on your own passion for body care, the often very colorful and sometimes somewhat shrill videos may not always be appealing to adults.

In principle, however, understanding is the order of the day: your child is looking for guidance and support as they grow up, and they will find it on channels like these. Show an interest and take a look at your child’s favorite beauty role models together. You might even learn a thing or two about skin and hair care!

At the same time, however, a certain skepticism is appropriate here. Beauty influencers strongly convey the message that beauty is the most important topic – especially for girls and young women, this can create unrealistic beauty ideals that are neither attainable nor conducive to a healthy self-image. Talk to your child about how photos and recommendations from influencers are created. Promote your child’s media skills by explaining to them how they can view such offers critically and use them consciously. Help your child to distance themselves from unrealistic ideals – and to choose the valuable tips for themselves.

In addition, much of the content on the profiles is aimed at promoting products – be it because an advertising partnership with a cosmetics company is in the background or because it is the company’s own product line. Discuss with your child that these products are not necessarily really good, but are primarily intended to secure the influencer’s income.

Media tips around Christmas

The smell of cookies, shopping stress, shining children’s eyes: the holidays are approaching and digital devices and games are on the wish lists of many children and young people. What should parents consider before and after giving a gift? Between the years and during the vacations, there is also time for shared family media experiences. How can this be designed in a safe, age-appropriate and even creative way? In this article, we give you an overview of offers from the Elternguide.online partner network.

Using media to combat boredom

The Christmas vacations can be long, especially when the weather outside doesn’t really invite you to play. You probably have devices such as smartphones, tablets, cameras or a laptop lying around at home. How about you and your child simply getting started, taking photos or filming yourselves, trying out new creative apps and organizing media time creatively? It’s great fun and your child will also learn something about media skills along the way.

On the website kinder.jff.de there are suggestions for simple media projects that children aged 6 and over can do on their own or from the age of 3 with support from you as parents at home. This is helped by child-friendly video instructions in which the implementation of the media projects is shown step by step. How about a photo memory with Christmas tree decorations or an audio story about New Year’s Eve traditions?

(Media) challenges in the family

You are probably familiar with challenges from social media, e.g. dance challenges on TikTok. Children and young people love to take on challenges. Challenges don’t necessarily only have to take place on the Internet, you can also play them at home with your family! Why not try the Top Photo Challenge, the Clip Challenge or the Recreation Challenge? We have made a few suggestions in our parents’ guide article. You can find more Advent challenges on the website of the JFF project webhelm.de.

Christmas movie tips from FLIMMO

Your child will probably also enjoy watching videos. If you are still looking for suitable films, series or YouTube clips, take a look at FLIMMO.

In addition to age information and educational recommendations for all formats from TV, streaming and YouTube, you will find winter movie tips from the Grüffelokind to the Grinch and the Polar Express under the special “Advent tips. A TV evening together can be a really nice family experience, especially when it’s as cold and dark outside as it is during the winter vacations.

Finding child-friendly answers to questions about Christmas

Children have many questions and learn early on that their questions will be answered on the Internet. How is Christmas celebrated in other countries? What craft tips and baking recipes are there for Christmas? The children’s search engine fragFINN offers children access to 3500 verified websites, including more than 400 children’s sites. Primary school children can gain their first Internet experience here in a protected surfing room and learn how to use search engines and search results. In the fragFINN Advent calendar, children can open a little door every day, behind which there are links to other children’s sites with Christmas information.

You can find more playful learning pages in this parents’ guide article.

A smartphone under the Christmas tree – a good idea?

Parents must decide individually when their child is ready for their first smartphone, depending on their level of development and experience. After all, a smartphone theoretically opens up the whole world of the Internet to your child, with all its opportunities and risks. klicksafe offers extensive information for parents. Use the smartphone readiness checklist to see whether a smartphone is ready for the Christmas tree. Has the decision been positive? Then find out about technical setting options for Android and iOS and watch the instructions in the form of explanatory videos. All klicksafe information material can be found here.

Would you like to prepare your child for the first smartphone under the Christmas tree? Child-friendly information on the first smartphone is available in the children’s magazine Genial Digital from Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk. The fragFINN app gives your child a protected surfing space on their first smartphone and gives them access to quality, positive content.

Are you considering buying a smartwatch as an alternative? Then take a look at this topic from klicksafe. Please note: technical protective measures are no substitute for family discussions and media rules. Stay in contact with your child and accompany them as they take their first steps with a smartwatch or smartphone.

Using media safely – with the help of technical youth media protection

In addition to discussions and media rules, technical youth media protection is an important component of media education. Use the screen time and digital wellbeing settings on smartphones to set time limits for the entire device or for different apps and to filter content. The parental control program JusProg offers a precise filtering option for websites and safe default settings for mobile devices and laptops. Google Family Links and YouTube Kids offer the opportunity to make media experiences safer for your child in the world of the internet giant Google. Social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok also offer safety features and parental guidance options. Streaming with the family can be a fun activity during the vacations. Almost all streaming services have certified offers for the protection of minors. Use your own child profiles and the parental control function with the PIN. Detailed instructions for all devices are available on the website medien-kindersicher.de.

Smart gift giving – tips for games under the Christmas tree

Which games should I give my child for Christmas? Are games okay for preschoolers? In the family section of the USK website, you will find all the information you need on the USK’s age ratings, the new additional information and how to deal with the topic of games in the family.

The USK mark indicates the age at which a game does not cause any developmental impairments. The additional information such as “fantasy violence” or “pressure to act” gives parents a good indication of whether a game is suitable for their own child. Educational assessments of games can be found at the NRW games guide. Descriptions of popular games such as Fortnite, Minecraft or Roblox are available on Elternguide.online.

Would you like to make your child happy with a game for Christmas? Find out about the distribution channels for games and technical precautionary measures. Various settings for the protection of minors can be made on consoles as well as in game stores and the games themselves. Play together with your child and ask them interesting questions about their favorite games.

The team at Elternguide.online wishes you and your family a wonderful Christmas season and lots of fun using media safely and creatively!

Upskirting – When boundaries are crossed

“Upskirting” refers to secretly taking photos under skirts. Smartphones have made this unacceptable behavior more widespread. It is not only an invasion of privacy, but also serious sexual harassment. We explain why it is important to educate children and young people about upskirting and its consequences and offer practical advice on how to deal with the issue.

What does upskirting mean?

The worrying phenomenon of upskirting refers to secretly photographing or filming under a person’s skirt or dress. Those affected often don’t even realize when someone is recording this particularly personal and intimate area. Smartphones are now so small and handy that very good photos can be taken at lightning speed with or without a selfie stick, even in poor light.

This inappropriate and even punishable behavior often takes place on public transport, on escalators, in shopping centers, at events or even at school. It is not only a violation of privacy, but also a blatant form of sexual harassment that has serious consequences. Similarly problematic and also punishable by law is “downblousing”, the secret photographing or filming of the neckline.

Some perpetrators only use the recordings for themselves. However, they often share the images and films on the internet, for example in messaging services or on porn platforms. In 2020, the offense of “violation of private life through image recordings” was added to the Criminal Code(Section 184k StGB), with fines or even prison sentences of up to two years.

Who can Upskirting meet?

Being photographed under the skirt or in the cleavage excludes men who dress according to classic role models. In this country, upskirting is likely to mainly affect girls, women and trans* and inter* people. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to this as they may not fully understand what is happening or how to protect themselves from it.

Young people explore their surroundings and their own boundaries, which can lead to risky behavior. The fascination with the unknown, coupled with a lack of awareness of the consequences of their actions, can tempt young people to behave rashly.

Upskirting is not only a blatant violation of privacy, but can also have serious psychological effects on the victims. The dissemination of such images can have a lasting impact on the lives of those affected. It is essential to point out the seriousness of these actions and to emphasize their social and legal consequences.

How can parents deal with this?

Open communication: Talk to your child about the importance of privacy and treating others with respect. Create a space where your child can ask questions. Emphasize that no one has the right to violate your child’s personal boundaries.

Raise awareness: Explain the consequences of upskirting, not only legally, but also in terms of the emotional impact on victims. Show how such actions affect trust and security in society.

Digital responsibility: Teach your child how to use media responsibly and point out the legal consequences of inappropriate behavior. It is important that your child understands that actions online have just as real an impact as in offline life.

Build trust: Establish a relationship of trust with your child so that they can contact you if something unpleasant happens to them. Assure them that you will support them and look for solutions together.

Help and advice for upskirting

Talk to your child: Let your child know that it is okay to confide in you and listen carefully.

Report the incident: Upskirting is a criminal offense and should be reported to the police. Encourage and support your child to do this. Upskirting violates personal rights and infringes the right to sexual self-determination. This means that no one may be turned into a sex object against their will. One law provides for a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine.

Even those who do not take photographs themselves but distribute unauthorized intimate images or make them accessible to others can be punished. Upskirting is not a piquant peccadillo, but a sexual offense.

Seek professional help: Upskirting can have an emotional impact. If necessary, seek help to help your child come to terms with the situation.

For children and young people:

For parents:

Hate among gamers

Children and young people like to play with each other and argue in the process – and that is quite normal. These conflicts do not stop at virtual space. Sometimes arguments degenerate into name-calling, hate speech or cyberbullying. What you can do as a parent on the topic of hate among gamers, we explain in this article.

Why do children and young people argue about computer games?

Games are supposed to be fun. Gamers compete against each other in many online games. As in other competitions, there is always one team that wins and at least one that loses. Losing often triggers frustration and anger is taken out on each other. In the process, there are also times when insults are used.

In the process, the difference between fun and seriousness is not always clearly discernible. Rough language, so-called trashtalk, is the order of the day in the gaming scene. However, this gaming language is usually not taken as a personal insult, but determines the tone of conversation. In some conflicts, however, players cross red lines and utter racist or sexist insults, for example. This is called hate speech and is a form of digital violence. This is about the targeted discrimination of people on the net based on one of their characteristics such as gender, skin color, origin or sexual orientation.

One particular feature fosters hatred among gamers: In online spaces, we do not face each other personally. Therefore, it is not easy to recognize how statements from the other person are meant and how one’s own statements are received. Also, things are said thoughtlessly that one would not say to others’ faces. Real people hide behind nicknames, but the anonymity of the Internet sometimes makes you forget that.

What can I do if my child is affected?

Accompany your child in the event of cyberbullying. When children argue, they are often sad afterwards and feel misunderstood. It doesn’t matter whether the conflict takes place online or in real life. After all, the emotions involved are always real. If your child is sad and opens up to you, take your child’s feelings seriously. Answers like “But it’s just a game!” or “Don’t play it if you’re always going to be mad afterwards.” are not conducive to this. Show understanding and offer your child support: “I’m here for you. Let’s figure out what to do together”. If these events happen again, talk to your child about what he or she can change. However, wait until the anger has passed for the moment.

Ask if your child feels offended by the culture of communication among gamers themselves. Make your child strong against haters and trolls and show them how to fight back online. Educate your child about how to deal with digital violence and point them to help sites like juuuport or Hate Aid. If your child encounters hate and incitement in games, report the account together. It is important for the community of the game that harmful players are reported. Thus, the developer studios can take action and block accounts or exclude them from participating in the chat. Find out what games your child plays and check if there is an option to child-proof the game. For example, individual players can be muted so that your child is no longer a repeated target of nasty hostility.

If you observe your child using violent language yourself, talk to your child in a quiet moment about communication in Games. Clarify which insults are discriminatory and make it clear where you stand on them. Be a role model in your own expression, whether online or offline, and show understanding and interest in your child’s play worlds.

Online games – five popular genre

Computers have revolutionized our world. They open up unimagined possibilities, also for the world of games. As early as 1961, student Steve Russel developed the world’s first computer game: Spacewar! In 1972, the most famous video game ever followed: Pong, by Nolan Bushnell. A lot has happened since then: technology has evolved, the Internet has made gaming in online spaces possible.

What online games do children and young people play today? The gaming platform Steam shows that shooters, MMORPG, survival games, battle royals and sports games were played particularly frequently in 2022. These types of games are also trendy among young people. We present you these five popular genres of online games.

Shooter

The word shooter comes from English (to shoot = to shoot) and refers to games in which the main objective is to eliminate opposing parties using firearms. In all shooters, the focus is on protecting your own threatened character. Team play, quick reactions and tactics are required. Shooters are often linked with an exciting game story and they come in countless variations. From highly tactical like Counter-Strike or Valorant to fast action like in Call of Duty there is a wide variety of games with different objectives. In first-person shooters, players control their character from a first-person perspective. We described whether first-person shooters promote violent behavior here.

MMORPG

MMORPG stands for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game” and combines elements of role-playing games with online worlds. The most famous representatives of the genre are Lost Ark World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV and Black Desert Online. The players slip into the role of a self-created character. You play with others and complete tasks (often called “quests” in these games). The focus of the individual games is very different. While players in World of Warcraft often team up with others to defeat dangerous enemies, in Guild Wars 2 players often fight each other in epic mass battles to capture and expand strongholds.

Besides tasks, MMORPG games offer a variety of other possibilities. Characters can learn a profession and earn gold or other currency with it. From the skilled cook to the blacksmith and the tanner to the jeweler, everything is there. In-character role-playing, in which players meet and interact with each other in character, is also common and offers similar incentives to improvisational theater.

Survival Games

Survival Games (Engl. “survive” = survive), such as for example ARK: Survival Evolved, The Forest, Rust or Minecraft attract with a very exciting gameplay, in which players start with a minimum of equipment and can build new items and even houses by collecting resources like wood, ores and co.
Depending on the game, players can explore technologies, travel an exciting but often dangerous world, and craft items. Most games can be played online together with others. Other game ends become either allies or opponents, with whom you either cooperate or fight for resources.

Battle Royale

Battle Royale is the title of the first book written by Japanese author Koushun Takami in 1999. In the book, a school class is abandoned on an island and must survive there. However, only one person may remain. The successful book series The Tribute to Panem also works with a similar concept.

When the game PUBG: Battlegrounds was released in March 2017, it immediately raced to the top of the Steam charts. Soon other developers followed and tried to reinvent the genre. Fortnite , Paladins and Minecraft mods wrote success stories that continue to this day.

The game principle follows the novel templates: 100 players are let loose into a world and fight to be the last one left. You’ll start without equipment and you’ll have to find important resources in the game world to succeed and prevail. The playing field is constantly shrinking, which leads to the fact that game players inevitably have to meet and defeat each other. Things often get heated in the process, as we have already described in this article.

Sports games

Another genre that has become indispensable are sports games. Fifa has been thrilling gamers of all ages for almost 30 years now.

Racing games like Formula 1, Dirt and Forza also inspire with a fast-paced gaming experience and realistic graphics. As in other sports, the primary attraction here is to compete with others. Traditional sports clubs have meanwhile eSports -teams, which also compete in sports games and tournaments.

What parents should pay attention

The popular game genres are undergoing constant change, A good overview of current genres is provided by the USK’s encyclopedia.

No matter what genre is played, the focus is always on having fun. Your child needs the balance to the stressful school or training day and uses gaming to relax and entertain. Computer games are a great way to do something with friends, even if they live far away.

Stay interested and learn about age ratings and appropriate games for your child. If you feel your child is playing too much, talk openly about it and try to agree on rules together.

Playbrush Kids – Gamification for brushing teeth

Playbrush Kids is a smart sonic toothbrush with interactive games app designed specifically for kids to make brushing teeth a fun experience. The app uses the gamification approach to make brushing teeth a game that kids love to play. We explain what’s behind it.

In a nutshell:

  • smart sonic toothbrush with interactive game app
  • Playful activities to motivate people to brush their teeth
  • For children from 3 to 12 years old
  • Coach teaches proper cleaning routine
  • Cleaning evaluations with reward system

What can Playbrush Kids do?

With this app you can play games, track brushing activities and learn how to brush teeth properly. To do this, the app uses gamification technology, a trend in the technology industry, especially in healthcare. The idea is to use playful elements such as points, rewards or competitions to motivate people to improve their health and well-being. Playbrush Kids aims to promote healthy tooth brushing habits in children, for good oral hygiene and better long-term dental health.

The children’s toothbrush acts as a game controller – either with a special toothbrush attachment (Playbrush Smart), which is placed on a conventional manual toothbrush, or as an electric sonic toothbrush (Playbrush Smart Sonic). These are equipped with sensors that detect the movements of the toothbrush and transmit them wirelessly to the app.

The children then have to complete various tasks while brushing their teeth, such as fighting little monsters or collecting objects. The app tracks the child’s progress and offers rewards for good performance. It also reminds how long and how often children should brush their teeth. Playbrush Kids was developed by dentists.

What fascinates children about it?

For children, Playbrush Kids can be very appealing as it allows them to experience brushing their teeth as an interactive and fun game. You can play different games and unlock characters, which makes the experience even more interesting. Children can track their own progress as they clean and feel proud when they achieve their goals. Gamification elements such as points and rewards provide additional motivation for most children.

What can be problematic?

  • Incentive and distraction: Children can become too fixated on playing and neglect the actual brushing of teeth. If they’re just looking to get to the next level in the game, they might not brush their teeth thoroughly enough or leave out important spots.
  • Overbrushing teeth: When children play too long, you can overbrush their teeth. While it is important to brush your teeth thoroughly, excessive brushing can cause damage to your teeth, such as abrasion of the enamel.
  • False reports: The app has technical problems from time to time. For example, the toothbrushing coach then reports to the child that he or she is brushing too hard, even though this is not the case.
  • Reward system: The reward system can help motivate children for better dental health and boost their self-confidence. However, there is a risk that they will only clean for rewards and behave differently when these are removed.
  • In-app purchases: Although the app works without any purchases, it offers cost traps with in-app purchases such as additional game pieces or accessories, which children also make unintentionally.
  • Privacy: The app collects personal information about your child, such as cleaning progress or for personalized recommendations. Data is also transmitted when parents have reports on the number of minutes spent brushing their teeth emailed to them, for example. The device location and IP address are also collected anonymously.

What does the provider think?

Playbrush Ltd is the company behind the app. They describe it as an innovative solution to help children improve their dental health by making brushing a fun and entertaining experience. They emphasize that the app is secure and complies with data protection laws.

What should parents pay attention to?

Playing is fun – and it should be. Support your child in not neglecting or overdoing tooth brushing. A mutually agreed time limit can help. If you have any concerns, please talk to your dentist.

The app’s reward system should be seen more as a support. Also encourage your child to take care of their dental health on their own initiative. So it can develop a lasting healthy habit.

The app collects data, if only to provide you with reports. Familiarize yourself with the privacy policy in order to make an informed decision or to make specific settings. Also keep an eye on the possible in-app purchases. To do this, you can discuss with your child – depending on their age – or restrict the purchase options in the smartphone settings.

Interact with your child – together, mouth music, brushing technique training and oral health quizzes become even more fun.

Lucky Girl Syndrome – the promise of quick happiness 

“If you think positively, your life will change for the better!”. Happiness and success as if by magic – that’s what the social media trend “Lucky Girl Syndrome” is all about.

The law of acceptance

Under the hashtag #luckygirlsyndrome, millions of videos of young women can be found on TikTok, Instagram and the like. They usually look very good, smile into the camera and promise their followers success through beliefs and mantras such as “I am happy” or “Things are going well for me”. The message is: good things will happen to those who expect good things. This is called the “Law of Assumption.” In some videos, female influencers talk about all the things they’ve been able to achieve thanks to their positive outlook on life: Gambling winnings, dream jobs or the perfect apartment. They challenge their followers to talk themselves into happiness and share the resulting successes with the community. The trend is mainly common among female TikTokers. The hashtag #luckyboysyndrome occurs significantly less.

Children and young people want to be happy

Who am I? How do I want to become? What do I want to achieve? Children and young people are in the middle of their personal development. On the road to adulthood, adolescents encounter many hurdles and must learn to deal with setbacks. Conquering a crush, getting good grades at school, shining at a dance recital – not everything they set out to do succeeds. This can make you dissatisfied and frustrated. The social media trend “Lucky Girl Syndrome” promises quick happiness and thus exactly meets the interest and longing of some young people, especially girls. They look to their idols for guidance and emulate influencers on social media. Challenges are fun for young users, and they interact with their circle of friends and role models.

When happiness becomes a constraint

Lucky Girl Syndrome” seems harmless, but it can become problematic for users. The trend lures with false promises. It doesn’t hurt to think positively. But goals cannot be achieved with thoughts alone. Those who want to attract happiness solely with the help of loudly spoken sentences and the inner attitude will soon be disappointed. Because only those who also become active and change their own behavior can shape their lives positively.

What is also problematic about the trend is that negative feelings have no place. But those who constantly suppress grief, fear or anger risk their mental health in the long run. What is also completely disregarded is the fact that not everything in life can go well and not everything can be positively influenced. What is also important to remember is that not all people have the same opportunities. Physical characteristics such as appearance, gender, and health and privileges such as social background and finances affect the achievement of personal goals.

How parents can cope with the “Lucky Girl Syndrome

Stay open and interested in your child’s social media use. A good basis for discussion is essential for a joint exchange on value issues. Talk to your child about his or her role models on TikTok and Cound with as little bias as possible, and ask what fascinates your child about them. Point out that how influencers are portrayed on social media may differ from how they are portrayed in private. Nobody is lucky all the time. Make it clear to your child: not everything always has to go well in life. Negative feelings are part of it and may be lived through to an appropriate degree. A positive outlook on life is good, but action must follow. Reinforce to your child that he or she is fine the way he or she is. Encourage his self-awareness and support him in critically reflecting on the self-optimization presented by some influencers on social media.

Sextortion – Blackmail on the Internet

“I have nude photos of you. If you don’t want me to send them to your whole class, transfer €500 to this account by tomorrow!” When supposedly private recordings or information are suddenly used to blackmail someone, we talk about sextortion. And this can affect virtually all Internet users.

What does sextortion mean?

Sextortion is made up of “sex” and the English “extortion”, meaning blackmail. The term describes an Internet phenomenon in which users are blackmailed with nude pictures or videos. In doing so, the blackmailers proceed in two different ways:

  • Sometimes stolen contact information is used to pressure someone. Then suddenly an email reaches the unsuspecting victim. It says that the PC has been hacked and embarrassing pictures or videos have been stolen. So that these are not spread, one should transfer money. Often the perpetrators actually have no pictures or videos at all. But because they know many contact details, the mails seem very personal and therefore also threatening.
  • Even more frequently, sextortion arises from supposedly harmless contacts: Two people get to know each other on dating platforms, in social media or in games. A nice chat turns into more and finally one person lets himself be persuaded to send nude pictures of himself. Once the pictures or videos are on the way, however, the sound suddenly changes. The previously sympathetic acquaintance now demands money and threatens to publish the pictures otherwise.

Who can be affected by sextortion?

The blackmailers in sextortion cases work with their victims’ sense of shame. The people concerned want to avoid at all costs that their most intimate pictures are shared uncontrolled online with a huge audience. Many often do not resist blackmail out of fear and shame. At the same time sextortion can affect everyone.

Because the perpetrators seek contact via common messengers and social media platforms, where there is generally a lot of communication between them, there is often no suspicion when contact is first made. Blackmailers often take a long time to gain the trust of their victims.

Mostly young men are the target of sextortion – but there are also increasing cases of women being blackmailed. Sometimes even children are threatened.

In some cases, it is not money that is demanded, but further sexual acts – then the crime is not only extortion, but also sexual assault or even rape.

How can you protect yourself and your child?

The best precaution against cybercrime is always: knowledge and caution. Inform yourself about communication risks on the Internet and educate your child in this regard. Stay in conversation with your child about their online actions and encourage them to be vigilant. Create a trusting basis for conversation and encourage your child to confide in you or an adult caregiver if he or she is being harassed. Make it clear to him that it is not your child who has done something wrong, but the perpetrator. Discuss the following rules with your child as needed:

  • Protect personal data. Always close or mask webcams when they are not in use.
  • It is best not to respond at all to e-mails with strange or threatening content – even if the sender appears to know your name and sounds very credible at first glance.
  • The same applies to acquaintances on the Internet: It’s better to be a little too careful! You should never send nude pictures to a person you only know from chat. No matter how much she pleads, cajoles or even threatens.
  • Unpleasant contact in social media, mails and messengers can be reported and blocked. For information and help on sexual harassment online, see our article Cybergrooming.

Sextortion help and advice

If it is already too late, you can take action: Sextortion is a criminal offense and should be reported to the police. The more people who report such cases and the more screenshots there are to document the extortion, the greater the chance that perpetrators will be caught. The people affected are not to blame. But if they do not defend themselves out of fear and shame, they only protect the perpetrators! Seek help and advice, for example here:

For children and teenagers at…

For parents at…

Stickers in WhatsApp and Co. – between creativity and spam

Stickers have long been indispensable in messenger apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and others. The small, colorful pictures are often funny or cute and offer a fun and creative way to express emotions and liven up conversations. We explain what stickers are useful for and when their use can also become exhausting.

What can stickers?

Unlike traditional emojis, stickers are often hand-drawn or digitally created graphics. The small images and animations offer an easy and quick way to convey a message, express your mood or bring fun into a conversation. Stickers can also be used to overcome language barriers. Since images are a universal language, they can be useful in multicultural communication situations.

There are stickers for almost every situation, from funny memes and cute animals to political messages and cultural references. With various apps like Sticker Maker or Sticker Studio, you can quickly and easily create your own stickers that are not available in any other app.

What excites children and young people about it?

For children and teenagers, sending and receiving the colorful images provides entertainment and fun. It is typical for young people in particular to communicate with images. Image communication partially replaces the written word. Children also like to make jokes, laugh and have fun. In stickers they can easily combine all this. Especially creating your own stickers provides a lot of creativity and individuality, which is especially popular among young people.

What can be problematic?

  • Misconceptions: Stickers should not be used to address serious or sensitive issues. In such cases, it is best to limit yourself to text or voice messages to avoid misunderstandings
  • Displeasure, distraction, and stress: Excessive use of stickers in group or class chats, for example, can make others feel disturbed or inconvenienced – even leading to digital stress.
  • Inappropriate content: There are many stickers that contain inappropriate, discriminatory or pornographic content. When children and young people encounter such stickers, they may be confronted with content that they cannot yet understand or process.
  • Harassment and Bullying: Stickers can be used to harass or bully others. Children and teens may send stickers that are hurtful or offensive, causing emotional harm to others.
  • Copyright infringement: If children and young people use stickers that are protected by copyright, they may be breaking the law and getting into legal trouble.
  • Security risks: Stickers can pose a security risk as they can be used by hackers and cybercriminals to spread malware and viruses. When children and teenagers download stickers from unknown sources, it can infect their device and expose personal data.

How can parents deal with it?

Find out about the apps your child uses and see what stickers are available there. There are also special parental control apps that can restrict access to certain apps or features.

Remember that social contacts become increasingly important for your child as he or she reaches puberty, and digital communication is just as much a part of this as conversations in the playground. Educate your child about not spreading stickers that may offend or harass others. Discuss rules for dealing with stickers – especially in class and group chats. Getting others’ permission before sharing stickers can help reduce problems. Also educate your child about what to do if he or she feels uncomfortable or harassed and always be approachable.

Talk to other parents and teachers about how stickers are handled in group chats. This way you can support each other and exchange ideas.

Feel free to create a fun sticker together with your child sometime. This encourages creativity and engagement with images and text.

Used electronics – Refurbed, rebuy & Co 

The smartphone is only a few years old and already broken. But does that mean it has to be replaced with a brand new device? What has long been established in the textile industry is also becoming increasingly popular for electronics: buying technical equipment second-hand. This is easy on both the wallet and the environment. We shed light on the background and present selected stores.

Electronics not only cost money, but also resources

The manufacture of smartphones, tablets and the like requires many valuable resources such as plastics, metals and rare earths. Some raw materials are mined in countries like Congo, supporting armed conflicts and child labor. During production, any amount ofCO2 escapes into the atmosphere. If the device is broken and ends up in the trash, it pollutes the environment again in the form of electronic waste. These are just some of the problematic backgrounds of today’s electronics industry. If you are looking for an alternative to this, the second-hand market is the place to go.

Refurbished devices

The sustainable alternative to buying new is to purchase a used unit. Not only smartphones, tablets and laptops are available on the second-hand market. Smartwatches, cameras and consoles or accessories such as headphones, cables and cases are also offered via online stores. And at significantly lower prices than new goods. Beforehand, all media equipment is checked, cleaned, repaired and refurbished. All data is deleted and the device is reset to the factory settings. In this way, used equipment is resold as good as new, thus extending the life cycle of electronics. The second-hand market makes an important contribution to the circular economy and conserves valuable resources.

The Berlin-based online store rebuy.de was awarded the test mark 2.2 by Stiftung Warentest 2023 as the best provider of refurbished smartphones. The German company was particularly convincing with the high quality of the smartphones on offer.

Refurbed.de offers not only high-quality, used electronics at low prices. For every device sold, the German company plants a tree and thus promotes climate neutrality. Large retailers also offer refurbished products with warranty, such as Amazon Renewed, Ebay Refurbished or B-Ware at Media Markt.

Used technology for children and teenagers?

Whether among friends or in online advertising – children and young people are constantly being touted the latest technology. But does it really always have to be the latest gadget? Younger children in particular can get off to a good start with a less expensive second-hand model. The first smartphone offers a good reason to purchase a second-hand device. This means that children and young people do not have to hide or even feel ashamed. Sustainability is in with young people, and quite rightly so! Those who know about the background wear their rescued device with pride and can be role models for their peer group.

What you should consider when buying used smartphones and co.

It’s best to buy used goods through online retailers rather than private sales. Large stores test and overhaul the equipment and provide it with a warranty. Consider how much money you want to spend and in what used condition you want to buy the electronics. Read the product descriptions carefully and also pay attention to notes such as non-smoking or or pet-free household. Take good care of your devices, save the battery and show your child how to enjoy their devices for a long time. If it is broken beyond repair, dispose of it properly together, for example at the recycling center. In this way, valuable ingredients are put to use again. Does your child really want a new device with the latest features as a birthday gift? Then consider selling the old device together via online trading. This way it stays in the cycle and gets the chance for a second life.

MagentaTV

Internet, telephone, streaming services, media libraries, television – to entertain ourselves and communicate, we resort to many different offerings at home. MagentaTV is a Deutsche Telekom platform that combines everything in one package. We present the offer and explain what parents should look out for.

In a nutshell:

  • TV streaming service and TV app
  • Provider: Deutsche Telekom
  • Bundled offer of TV programs, movies, series in connection with Internet & telephony
  • MagentaTV: €39.95 to €75.95 per month; MagentaTV app: from €10 per month (as of 3/23)
  • Child and youth protection settings available

What does MagentaTV offer?

MagentaTV is a bundled offering of Internet, telephony, and a selection of TV channels and video streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, some of which cost extra. The platform can be used on various devices such as SmartTVs, smartphones, tablets and computers. Those who do not have an Internet or phone contract with Deutsche Telekom can access TV channels and video streaming services via the paid MagentaTV app. In addition to the basic offers, various packages can be added. Extensions are available, for example, for special subject areas such as sports, languages such as Turkish or Polish, or target groups such as children and families.

Parental control with MagentaTV

To use MagentaTV safely, child and youth protection settings can be made on all devices on which the service is used: on smartphones, tablets and computers, on the SmartTV, the MagentaTV box and the media receiver. An adult PIN prevents children and teenagers from accessing content that is not approved for their age. If content does not have an age rating from the FSK , streaming services must make the assessment themselves. It is not always obvious how this is done. In addition to the PIN, a purchase block and a hiding of erotic content can be set up. You can find detailed settings for parental control with MagentaTV at medien-kindersicher.de.

What should you as a parent pay attention to when using MagentaTV?

Watching movies, series or TV shows has a great appeal for children and young people. Whether they use it to inform themselves, entertain themselves, or relax after kindergarten and school, watching videos is often an integral part of their everyday lives as a media ritual. A comprehensive offering like MagentaTV can entice your child to watch endless videos. Also, your child may be shown content that is not age-appropriate. Therefore, note the following points:

  • Consider how much screen time is appropriate for your child.
  • Set appropriate media times with your child and keep adjusting them based on your child’s developmental stage.
  • Not all videos are suitable for children, but can disturb and frighten them. If your child is still young, do not leave him or her alone in front of the unit.
  • Find out the age ratings of the content and set parental controls like the adult PIN so your child can stream safely.
  • Incorporate media into family time and watch movies and series together. Stay conversational about the content and show sincere interest.

Dark Patterns – Manipulation on the Internet

“Allow all cookies”, “Only 5 left in stock!” – does something like this sound familiar? Maybe you’ve clicked on something while browsing or spent more money while shopping online when you really didn’t mean to. Behind this is a mechanism that deliberately deceives users on websites, in online commerce, in apps and games.

Seductive designs

Dark patterns are designed to induce Internet users to take actions that are not in their interest, but work in favor of the provider. This involves working with design principles from graphic design as well as tricks from behavioral psychology. The aim is to obtain personal data from users or to tempt them into excessive purchases of products, subscriptions or contracts. Well-known examples are:

  • Draw attention: The “ORDER NOW” button lights up large and with a colored background. The alternative “no, thank you” remains discreetly in the background.
  • Blur wording: Ambiguous statements, double negatives, or misleading expressions intentionally confuse. This strategy is particularly common for forms with checkboxes.
  • Hiding information: Log out, unsubscribe, cancel – these actions are sometimes well hidden or not present at all. This makes it difficult to withdraw from an offer.
  • Create negative emotions: a special offer is about to expire, the shopping cart is deleted or only a few items are still available – this intentionally creates pressure. Anyone who only adds the alternative “No, I don’t want to be informed” to the newsletter subscription notice is deliberately targeting users’ sense of shame.
  • Automatically add additional offers: In the shopping cart or when making a flight reservation, you suddenly find an additional offer such as insurance next to the items you added yourself.

These Dark Patterns are encountered by children and young people

Children and young people also encounter manipulative strategies every day on the Internet. Especially on social media platforms, in apps or video games, they have to deal with hidden information, advertising banners, sales strategies and psychological tricks. The special algorithms and endless feeds of TikTok, Instagram and the like are deliberately designed to keep users in the apps as long as possible. Likes and comments inspire, but also create social pressure. Video games like Fortnite and gaming apps like Coin Master use mechanisms such as unnecessary time pressure, intrusive in-app purchases, and opaque loot boxes, among others. On websites and search engines, it is not always easy to distinguish advertising from content. Younger children in particular do not yet have the experience and maturity to see through Dark Patterns and not be guided by emotions.

How can parents deal with this?

Be careful when surfing the Internet, protect your child’s data and encourage your child to use data sparingly. Discuss with your child the conscious use of money and accompany him or her when making first orders or payments online. Educate your child about the mechanics of online advertising and sales tricks on the Internet. Consider the following tips and discuss them with your child:

  • Think first, then click: Don’t click buttons too quickly, but take your time to see what options are available.
  • Read carefully: For forms with checkboxes to click, carefully read what checking a box really means.
  • Checking orders: Before completing an online purchase, check the shopping cart and make sure it contains only what is needed.
  • Keep emotions in check: Don’t feel pressured to make purchases and don’t feel guilty about offers.

In addition, solutions from the technical youth media protection can support the safe Internet use of your child, for example, youth protection filters, access restrictions or ad blockers.

Are such strategies allowed at all? Legally, dark patterns operate in a gray area. If you or your child have had a negative experience with it, report it together to the consumer center: verbraucherzentrale.de/beschwerde.

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