“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.
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:
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.
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:
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.