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General terms and conditions – small print on the Internet

2 minutes reading time
6-17 years
Social Media
Foto: pexels.com/Yan Krukau

“I have read and agree to the terms and conditions”. Does that phrase sound familiar? For example, from online shopping? By clicking on a checkbox, the GTC are confirmed and the purchase is completed. But what is actually behind the term AGB? And what should you as a parent know about it? We explain that in this article.

What are GTC?

AGB is the abbreviation for General Terms and Conditions. They are there to ensure that contracts can be concluded quickly. The GTC contain the exact rules of a contract between the users and the provider. On the Internet, this mostly involves the terms of use of Internet services such as apps, newsletters or social networks. People who use Internet services usually enter data such as their name, e-mail address or bank details. In order to be allowed to use this data, companies need the users’ consent to data protection. In addition, the terms and conditions for Internet purchases regulate details such as return rights, shipping costs and payment options.

When do children and young people come into contact with STC?

Kids and teens love trying out new Internet services and apps. They download apps on their smartphone, tablet or laptop alone or with the support of their parents. Often they are not even aware that they have agreed to the terms and conditions with the download. For example, they lack information on how the Internet service handles their data and what rules apply to its use, such as how to interact with each other. The T&Cs often include the age at which the services are permitted and how minors may use the service.

Small print explained simply

T&Cs are considered the fine print of the Internet. This is because there is important information hidden in it, but it is not understandable at first glance. Mostly they are long texts in difficult language with many complicated terms. Sometimes they are not available in German. For consumers, these texts are often difficult to understand and there is no time to read the terms and conditions carefully. These two offers can help you better understand T&Cs:

  • The Terms of Services Didn’t Read page rates the T&Cs of commonly used apps such as Instagram, YouTube or Amazon in traffic light colors of red, yellow and green. Volunteers analyze the complicated texts and explain the background of the terms of use in simple language. The site is only available in English so far.
  • Klicksafe’s “Terms of Use in Brief” provides an overview of the terms and conditions of online services popular with children.

How can parents introduce their child to AGB?

Explain to your child what T&Cs are and what rules they contain. Look at the TOS of one of your child’s favorite apps together and help your child critically examine the TOS. Talk with your child about what he or she can do if he or she disagrees with an arrangement. One solution can be not to use the service and, for example, to uninstall an app again. Another option is to use an app in a restricted way, for example, not allowing an app all permissions or sharing as little personal data as possible through the app. Also inform your child that the terms and conditions may change and that users will have to agree or decline again.

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