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Safe is safe: passwords on the net

Accounts on Instagram, TikTok or Amazon are secured with passwords. For example, strangers should not be able to access sensitive data such as address, account number, etc., or post or order things in the name of others. However, some passwords are so simple that they can be easily “cracked” by criminals with technical help. Children should learn what strong passwords look like as soon as they use digital devices or go online.

Criteria for a secure password

A secure password has at least 12 characters and consists of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid personal passwords like your children’s birthdates, because they are easy to figure out with a little research. Sequences of numbers (for example, “12345”), alphabetical sequences of letters (such as “abcdefg”), or a sequence of adjacent keys on the keyboard (such as “qwertz”) are also not safe. Words that are not in any dictionary and have nothing to do with you or the service you are trying to sign up for are best.

Build a mnemonic bridge

Creating a secure password and remembering it in the long run is not that easy. A mnemonic helps with this. Think of a sentence that you can easily remember, for example “Elternguide.online informs and supports parents also in 2023!”. If you take out only the first letters, numbers and special characters of the sentence, the following password will be created: “Eoi+uEaiJ2023!” This string is safe and you will not forget it easily. If you can’t think of a phrase of your own, you can think of a proverb, for example, “When two quarrel, the third rejoices!” Or you can use the password generator from Data-Kids, which will help you and your child create such secure passwords!

Keeping track with password managers

A password should be changed regularly. It is recommended to use a separate password for each of the different platforms, as data leaks and theft of user data can always occur. Hackers could access all accounts if the same password was always used.

If you can’t or don’t want to remember so many different passwords, it’s best to use a password manager. This allows passwords to be managed and stored in encrypted form. You will then need to remember only one password for the manager. With the password key machine , parents and children can come up with password keys that are hard to forget.

You can read and view more about secure topics on the website of the German Federal Office for Information Security.

Digital counseling services for young people and parents

Children and young people do not always turn to their parents with their problems. Problems at school, with peers or themselves, are rather discussed among friends. They look for answers, like-minded people on the Internet or keep it to themselves. But what happens when the problems become bigger and the people concerned can no longer find a way out? If you as a parent notice that your child is not doing well? The Internet is not always a good source of advice on problems, but there are definitely safe and helpful digital counseling services for young people and parents.

What are digital consulting services?

Online counseling services offer support for problems and concerns such as bullying, eating disorders, or depression. Some services are aimed specifically at children and young people. Those affected can seek help on their own and get advice on various topics anonymously and free of charge via a website or by telephone.

Individual counselling, group chats and forums

In addition to individual counselling, many of the counselling services on the net offer the possibility to discuss problems in a group or a forum. For individual counselling, those affected write their problems directly to psychologically trained counsellors. In such an exchange, young people receive immediate help and support. Depending on the problem and the need, this exchange can vary in length. Group offers usually take place in a rhythm, e.g. weekly. Regular participation is often helpful, but not absolutely necessary. Sometimes, like-minded people can be found in such chats who are also there for each other outside of the meetings. Within forums, affected persons exchange information with peers. Peers are people of the same age. They have been trained to help with problems in the chat. In addition, they always have the possibility of accessing the help of adult professionals. The exchange in the forums is also moderated to avoid insults, triggers or the disclosure of data.

Good counselling services on the internet

The counselling and support services differ in terms of which age group is addressed, which topics are the focus and how counselling can be accessed. Some services are also aimed at parents seeking help:

  • Telefonseelsorge advises children, young people and adults online or by telephone on various problems.
  • In addition to youth counselling, the Nummer gegen Kummer also offers a parents’ hotline. Parents can use this for problems such as excessive demands, worries or educational problems.
  • The trained counsellors of Jugendnotmail are available anonymously 365 days a year for young people up to the age of 19.
  • The counselling service jugend.bke-beratung supports young people aged 14 to 21. On the website, they can exchange their problems and worries in individual or group chats – from lovesickness and trouble at school to major problems
  • Auf jugend.support und juuuport bekommen Kinder und Jugendliche Hilfe bei Problemen im Netz wie z. B. Cybermobbing oder Cybergrooming
  • Among other things, Beratung4kids offers a separate section with forums for trans people, i.e. those who struggle with their gender identity.
  • At the Youth Life Line, young people up to 21 years of age can get counselling from their peers in acute crises and in cases of suicide risk.
  • The u25-deutschland website offers counselling, an information desk on topics such as eating disorders, suicide, depression
  • The Kid Kit service counsels young people up to the age of 18 in cases of addiction, violence or mental illness in the family. Nacoa counsels all age groups
  • At netz-und-boden.de there is support for children with mentally ill parents
  • On da-sein.de, peers support young people who are in mourning or who are themselves suffering from a life-shortening illness.
  • Peer-to-peer counselling is also available at nethelp4u. Young people advise young people on self-harming behaviour, suicidal thoughts, drug problems, depression and eating problems, among other things. The Hilfsangebot-Finder of the initiative Freunde fürs Leben (Friends for Life) helps to find the right counselling offer. You can filter whether you would like to receive counselling by phone, online or on site.
  • Pausentaste ist ein Angebot für Kinder und Jugendliche, die sich um ihre Familien kümmern
  • Pausentaste is an offer for children and young people who care for their families
  • In any crisis, Krisenchat offers chat counselling by professionals for anyone under the age of 25

Digital guidance services have limits 

Help offers on the net can be accepted easily and free of charge. They are more accessible to young people than, for example, counselling centres. The counsellors are trained and those affected remain anonymous. Making contact can be a first and right step. Especially in case of problems at school, at home or with oneself, it can help to exchange ideas with peers or to get the advice of an objective person. However, online counselling is no substitute for therapy! In case of suicidal thoughts or mental disorders, it is imperative to seek the advice of another therapeutic professional and to seek ongoing therapy. Other professionals should also be sought for legal or medical issues.

What should parents pay attention to

Tell your child that these services exist. Explain that compared to groups in open forums or on social media, they are safer because trained staff are behind them. Also beware of so-called psycho apps. These are not always helpful and can even be dangerous. Show your child which services it can use without hesitation when it has problems and worries.

Above all, make it clear that he or she can count on your help if problems arise. Do not put pressure on your child and ask without bias if you feel he/she has problems. A problem that seems small to you may feel much worse to your child. You can also get counselling yourself or together online.

Flirting and dating on the net

Friendships in your child’s life are important and become closer over time. At some point, falling in love comes along and the first relationships are formed. We explain what the most popular apps and communication tools for young people involve for flirting and dating online.

Which apps are used for keeping in touch and flirting?

To keep in touch with their peers, many young people primarily use familiar platforms such as WhatsApp , Instagram or Snapchat . Outside of school and sports clubs, they are used to get to know each other better, to follow each other quite inconspicuously, or to feel closer to each other.

But dating apps are also gradually becoming interesting for young people – around the age of 15. However, there are only a few contact portals that are aimed at or suitable for young people, as it is mainly people from their late 20s who go looking for a partner here. Most communities also do not allow participation until the age of 18. Only a few flirting sites offer their services to younger teenagers: Yubo is aimed at young people aged 12 to 17. Although the service is not officially a dating app, it is also used for that purpose and works very similarly to Tinder. MyLOL is aimed at 13- to 19-year-olds and markets itself as a teen dating app, mind you without any age verification. The dating app Skout is now available for ages 17 and up.

Adult dating apps likeTinder, Bumble,Lovoo ,and queer-friendly offerings likeOKCupid . are also exciting for young people because of their playful design: You are shown a picture of another person and decide whether you find them attractive by swiping left or right. Out of curiosity alone, young people are also on the platforms for adults, because there is no age control for these apps.

What can be problematic?

Especially when flirting over the Internet, you have to be careful because you can’t see your counterpart. You don’t know whether what a person writes about himself or herself is true and what interests he or she is pursuing.Anyone can register with a portal or social media platform – whether they are of age or not. When you make contact with strangers, there is a risk of theCybergrooming, i.e., initiating sexual relations with minors.

When adolescents begin to fall in love and (want to) have their first relationships, there is also the risk ofSextingandCyberbullying to Sextortion: Some young people are easily persuaded to send revealing pictures of themselves without realizing the consequences and dangers.The swipe function of some dating apps also supports superficial judgments of others based solely on their appearance. This increases the risk of Insults and Hate Speech.

What should parents pay attention to?

Inform yourself about communication risks on the Internet and educate your child in this regard. Even if your child knows the person they are chatting with, they should be careful about what they write and what photos they send of themselves. Even with offerings like Snapchat where the photos delete themselves automatically, but they can still be saved forever via screenshot. Talk to your child about the fact that content on the Internet can also be disseminated quickly and unintentionally. Encourage your child to listen to his or her gut and not be pushed into anything.

No matter what app your child uses for communication, make sure to instruct them on privacy settings. It’s best to go through these together and consider which settings make sense, such as a profile set to private on Instagram . Make sure to turn off the location function of the apps. This way you can avoid strangers (or unwanted) tracking your child.

Flirting and dating are important for your child. However, make your child aware not to meet complete strangers. And certainly not on their own. At least one phone call should have already taken place. If you are completely unsure, start the first call with a suppressed phone number.

When it comes to a meeting, an adult person should always know about it. This person can, for example, come to the meeting and stay in the background. The meeting place should always be a public place where there are many other people. In addition, the meeting should take place during the day when it is still light outside.

Stay in regular communication with your child about which portals and apps your child is using, what he or she is doing there, or with whom he or she is communicating. However, please continue to respect your child’s right to privacy. Don’t control it, but agree together on rules for dealing with it.

And if your child doesn’t want to talk to you about such things, he or she can get very good information on the subject at ins-netz-gehen.de orhandysektor.de.

Young people under digital stress

The smartphone vibrates in your pocket. When you look at it, there are 15 new messages in the family group and a voice message from your best friend waiting for your reply. This can be annoying or even put pressure on you. Being constantly connected and reachable can trigger digital stress – even among young people. But how does that happen?

What’s behind digital stress?

Digital stress is mainly related to constant accessibility, distraction and control. Most young people – but also many adults – assume that they will respond to messages on WhatsApp , Instagram and Co within a few minutes or have to respond. This expectation of always having to be available can lead to stress on both sides, e.g. if other important tasks such as homework are neglected in the process.

Many young people take their smartphone to bed with them. The first thing many young people do when they wake up in the morning is automatically reach for their smartphone. This also happens at other times of the day – often quite unconsciously as a distraction or out of boredom. For example, many people use their social media feed as a bedtime story before going to sleep, but the more screen time during the day, the more trouble you can have falling asleep or sleeping through it.

For children and young people, it’s part of the job to constantly communicate and stay in touch with their friends via messenger apps, social media or online games. However, this is also associated with social pressure . Social media apps are made to get as much user attention as possible, and not all content does teens good. The own self-expression, the comparison with idols or friends can be exhausting. Online games also want to keep players engaged with reward systems and performance principles.

Those who do not participate in group chats, for example, fear being excluded from the schoolyard as well. That’s why it’s especially hard for younger teenagers to escape the flood of news. This phenomenon has a name: FOMO stands for “Fear of missing out” and describes the fear of missing out or not noticing something.

The influence of the peer group

At the same time, many young people are annoyed that their friends are constantly looking at their cell phones when they are out together. On the other hand, they themselves find it difficult to take their eyes off their cell phones and constantly check their smartphones for incoming messages. When a red number appears on the app icon on the display, it makes you excited and curious. It is a small feeling of happiness that wants to be repeated as often as possible.

Older teenagers are often already aware of the problem and try to find their own solutions to it. They are more likely to be able to separate themselves from their own circle of friends and to pursue their own needs with self-confidence. Whether on vacation, while learning, or permanently – under JOMO (“Joy of missing out”), for example, social media users share their joy at being able to switch off and put digital media aside for a while.

Strategies against digital stress

In the age of smartphones, mobile Internet and messengers, almost everyone can relate to the term digital stress. Many children and young people are bothered by the fact that their parents also look at their smartphones too often. You are a role model for your child for conscious media use. If you yourself feel stressed by your smartphone, talk openly about it with your child. This way, it feels understood when it can’t put the smartphone down.

Together with the whole family, find strategies to reduce stress. Set rules together to reduce time on the cell phone. This can be, for example, a ban on cell phones during meals together or in the bedroom. Of course, the adults must also abide by these rules!

Or you can arrange a “digital diet” in which all family members abstain completely from digital media and the Internet for a while. If you do something nice together as a family instead, the renunciation may not be quite so hard!

Apps for regulating media time or setting options such as screen time can help to use media more consciously . A comprehensive list on how to avoid digital stress is provided by the saferinternet.at site.

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.


Especially adolescents in puberty want to discover their own sexuality, try themselves out and test how they affect other people. This also happens in the digital space via messenger or social network. We explain what sexting is and what you should watch out for.

What is it about?

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So sexting means sending erotic messages, revealing pictures or videos, like pictures in shorts, swimsuit or being completely topless. In doing so, you want to put yourself in the scene as sexy as possible in order to appear attractive to your counterpart. By the way, sexting is not a phenomenon that occurs only among young people. On the contrary, adults send such pictures much more often.

What can be problematic?

Basically, sexting is not a bad thing: it can be a proof of love, an attempt to impress your crush or simply testing your own impact. However, a fundamental problem arises: relationships between people change. Trust is not always a given. You can’t know what will happen to your own images. For example, images that were sent consensually and in confidence may then be forwarded to others without being asked or without consent.
So sexting itself is not bad, but the misuse of the images by other people is the problem – and can also be punishable. Young people whose images are used are the victims in this case. They are not to be condemned at all.

How can parents deal with this?

Educate your child about sexting. Speak frankly and respect privacy yourself of your child. In this way, you can support your child in using digital media safely and responsibly. Help your child develop healthy self-esteem and encourage him or her to confide in an adult if he or she has been harassed, threatened, or a victim of sexting abuse. If this ever happens: Help your child report the abuse and have the relevant material deleted, Explain to your child that he or she did nothing wrong. At www.safer-sexting.de you and your child can get extensive information about what is allowed when sexting, what to watch out for, what to urgently refrain from and where to get support.

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.

Technical youth media protection – settings, apps and programs

Children and young people should be able to navigate the Internet safely. This is legally regulated by the Protection of Minors in the Media Act, among other things. At the same time, the topic of online safety is part of parents’ media education responsibilities. Solutions for the technical protection of minors from harmful media are a building block for guiding children between protection, empowerment and participation when using the Internet. In this article, we will give an overview of the most important settings, apps and programs.

Dos and don’ts

You would like to introduce technical youth media protection at home? Then don’t do it secretly. Talk to your child about it, explain the app or program, and make adjustments together. Think carefully about your and your child’s need for protection. Acknowledge your child’s needs and find age-appropriate solutions. Adapt the measures to your child’s current stage of development and media use behavior. But the most important point is: Technical protection can support media education, but not replace it! Keep an open dialog with your child, explain the risks to him or her and work together to establish media rules in the family.

Set screen time

Always on – always being on your smartphone or tablet can be exhausting and distracting from what else there is to do. With the help of screen time, you and your child can check how long you spend in which apps. Various setting options, such as the app timer, the concentration mode or the idle time, can also help to put the device away again or not to be distracted by certain digital temptations.

Surf safely

The children’s search engine fragfinn.de operates the browser app fragFINN. The Child Protection app provides a safe surfing space with access to vetted, child-friendly websites for children ages 6 to 12. You can also make settings when dealing with other search engines such as bing, ecosia or google to support safe searching on the web and filter out inappropriate content.

Use children accounts

The advantage to children’s accounts is that you can create a separate account for each of your children and equip it with individual, age-appropriate settings. A child account with Microsoft Family Safety lets you set screen time settings, content filters, activity reports, cost controls and more for Android devices, laptops running Windows 10 and 11, and Xbox. Be sure to strike the right balance between protection and control, and discuss the settings with your child. Those who use many Google offers can create a child account via the Google Family Link and thus control their own child’s smartphone use. You should carefully consider the extent to which this makes sense for your teenager.

Install parental control programs

If you prefer to be independent of providers and operating systems, you can install various programs for technical youth media protection. JusProg is a state-approved youth protection program that is free of charge, data-saving and ad-free. Salfeld Parental Control is available for a fee and focuses on time limits and filters, as well as connecting parent and child devices.

Secure devices

Did you know that you can child-proof your router, such as the Fritz!BOX? You can create access profiles, set online times and block Internet sites. Game consoles like Xbox and Switch are also equipped with parental control settings that you can set up individually. The main issues here are age limits and, in the case of video games, limits on the length of games.

Social media – but safe!

If your child likes to be on social media platforms, you should make settings together in the apps, e.g. for communication, contact and profile visibility. Explain to your child how to report and block contacts and content. If your child is still young, he or she can use TikTok in accompanied mode. As a parent, you have the option to restrict various functions. On Instagram, you can get insight about contacts and followers through parent supervision and set time limits. Snapchat ‘s Family Center allows an overview of one’s child’s usage without being able to access the content of messages and posts. With YouTube, you can either set up restricted access or use the child-friendly alternative YouTube Kids.

Set up streaming platforms

With streaming services like Netflix, the main concern is that your child only has access to age-appropriate movies and series. Many, but not all, of the contents are FSK-approved and are marked with age ratings. Set up a separate profile for each of your children and protect your profile with a secure PIN.

Your family – your solution!

You know your child best. You know what he or she likes to do with media and where your child should be especially protected. Keep your knowledge of parental control settings and programs up to date. Use help services such as medien-kindersicher.de. There you’ll find suitable settings for every device and operating system, for every app, every hot game and social media offering, according to age group. Use technical youth media protection to support your media education. Accompany your child’s media use, set a good example, and encourage your child’s media literacy.

TikTok and drug use

It’s actually forbidden – and yet surprisingly present: On social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook but also in messengers like WhatsApp and Telegram there is a drug scene in which some very young users are active.

Drug use and social networks – what do you find there anyway?

Illegal drugs are finding their way into the public domain via social media platforms like TikTok. Under corresponding hashtags, the popular short video app features videos of users talking about their own drug use or showing it live. This goes from weed and mushrooms to meth, MDMA or heroin. According to both Germanyouth media protection laws and the platforms’ community rules, such videos are prohibited. Some videos come from children and young people who get encouragement for their behavior via likes and comments.

Social media has not only made the topic of drugs itself more visible. It may also be easier to find the drugs themselves via websites or groups, if contact can be made with dealers there.

Funny and harmless? The videos convey fatally wrong images

The problem with this drug scene, which is just a click away: the colorful images, the fun depicted, the feeling of being in a group of like-minded people, as well as unifying elements like the music initially seem inviting. Often drug use is trivialized in the videos, experiments are praised and supported by other users. This can create a completely false image of drug use as recreational fun among adolescents. Children and young people in particular, who are looking for support and confirmation, can easily be attracted to such content.

It can be problematic that platforms often suggest similar videos to their users again with the help of algorithms. This can make topics that you deal with more and more present.

What do the platforms do?

According to the community guidelines, such videos are of course not permitted – neither consumption and glorification nor the sale of drugs on the platforms. TikTok therefore blocks obvious hashtags or deletes posts and groups if they are noticed or reported. However, not all newly invented hashtags can always be blocked immediately.

What should parents pay attention to?

In terms of both media and drug use, the golden road is a trusting relationship and open communication. Stay in touch with your child and show interest in them and their media use. In the best case, you will notice early on if your child encounters questionable content or has questions or problems. Then you can find a way to deal with it together.

If your child is still very young, you can also control his or her media use technically – for example, with the help of the accompanied mode on TikTok.

If you feel your child is changing, has mental health issues, or may already be in contact with drugs, there are several steps you can take:

  • Address your child directly. Ask specific questions and be open with your concerns. Sometimes a frank conversation gets a lot moving.
  • Educate your child about algorithms and give them tips on how to handle recommendations from social media apps. Clicking “not interested” helps the TikTok algorithm understand that your child does not want to watch such videos.
  • Encourage your child to report such posts so that the appropriate social media platform can delete them.
  • Talk to trusted people, such as teachers, school social workers, or social educators.
  • In all larger cities, there are contact points such as educational counseling centers, counseling centers for mental health problems or drug counseling centers. A directory for the latter is provided by the Deutsche Hauptstelle für Suchtfragen e. V. Visit them alone or together with your child and seek help!
  • Under the nationwide Addiction & Drugs Hotline, experienced professionals offer anonymous, telephone counseling around the clock.
  • Give your child access to age-appropriate educational resources like drugcom.com that provide information about the dangers of drugs.

Music live streams on YouTube

On stage or canned, pressed on vinyl or available digitally – music accompanies us throughout our lives in the most diverse forms. Currently in vogue: music as livestream, on YouTube or on other platforms. For young people, this is a popular way to listen to their favorite music and stay in touch with others at the same time.

What is special about the livestream?

At first glance, it looks a bit like a return to linear television: Music is broadcast live – and users have the option of clicking in and listening along if they want. They do not select the songs themselves individually, but call up a playlist that someone has compiled for them.

In fact, there are also many similarities – but also differences – to VIVA, MTV and Co. or 1990s:

  • Livestreams can be offered on many platforms, for example on Twitch and Instagram , Facebook or YouTube . While livestreams on social networks tend to be used for conversations, such as interviews, YouTube is home to news, gaming, and interviews, as well as many music streams.
  • In principle, any user can offer a livestream. YouTube requires a minimum number of followers and the function must first be activated – so the first livestream needs to be prepared.
  • Then you’re ready to go. Livestream providers use their webcam, external recording devices, or prepared files on their hard drive to livestream. Users can listen, chat or comment at the same time.
  • There is no time limit for the streams. After the live broadcast, however, only streams under 12 hours will remain available on the platform.

Livestreams are indeed very popular among users: 30 percent of YouTube users in a global study by Datareport in 2022 said they watch at least one livestream per week.

Music and community: two birds with one stone for children and young people

For children and young people, the livestream serves two important needs at once. On the one hand, they can get their favorite music here and get inspired. Depending on their tastes and the situation, they will always find the right offer – such as the hits of the year for the New Year’s Eve party or LoFi channels.(LoFi stands for “low fidelity” and refers to music recorded with simple technical devices that are a popular acoustic accompaniment for learning). At the same time, the live chat offers them the possibility of a parallel exchange with their circle of friends, with other listeners or with the creators of the stream. That’s how they find connection and community – and people with similar tastes in music.

Children and young people with their own profile can also offer livestreams themselves. In this way, they become creative themselves, share and express themselves.

Everything great? If you follow the rules!

So, on the whole, livestreams seem to be a good deal for music lovers of all kinds. In principle, minors may only use YouTube with the permission of their parents. The use of YouTube is permitted in Germany from a minimum age of 16 years. From the age of 13, parents can allow their children to use the Family Link.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to live music streams – and they’re something parents should definitely address before releasing their kids into the vastness of YouTube:

  • For one thing, streams – of course – cost a lot of data volume. If you have a stable WLAN at home, you don’t have to worry much about this. For cell phone contracts with limited options, it is important to make it clear to children and teens that continuous streaming throughout the month is more likely not an option.
  • Secondly, although chat offers opportunities for interesting contacts, it should also be enjoyed with caution. As in other chats, forums or networks, you never know who you are dealing with. Parents should therefore make their children aware of the risks of communication on the Internet. Detailed information on this can be found in these Parents’ Guide articles: Teenagers’ Communication on the Net, Communication Risks on the Net, and Cybergrooming.
  • There are no age labels for music. In some music genres, like gangster rap, things get verbally violent. In some songs, for example, there is misogynistic content, glorification of crime, violence or drugs. Stay engaged in conversation with your child about his or her favorite music and point out boundaries for inappropriate content.
  • Finally, the same applies to young people who want to become active themselves: The same rules apply here as for other social media use. Copyright and personal rights must also be respected in the livestream. You may only use music or images to which you have all rights. For example, self-made music or music under a CC license.

Cyberflashing – unwanted messages on the smartphone

The cell phone vibrates, a message arrives. But the click on the notification contains an unpleasant surprise: instead of a message from the circle of friends, an obscene photo appears on the screen. When people send photos of their private parts to others without consent, it’s called cyberflashing. For children and young people in particular, this can be very unpleasant or even disturbing.

Cyberflashing – who, how and especially why?

New media offerings and technical possibilities make many things easier in communication. Sometimes, however, they also open the door to unpleasant phenomena. Cyberflashing is one such.

Mostly it is men who photograph their private parts and send the resulting photos – so-called “dickpics” – to women. Sometimes these pictures are sent to your own contacts via Messenger without being asked. More often, however, senders use social networks or dating apps to send their images, directing them at people they barely know or don’t know at all.

The problem has been exacerbated by functions such as AirDrop: This allows content to be sent to other devices in the vicinity – without the number or a clear name being displayed. So women can receive pictures from unknown and do not even know from whom. Why especially men send such pictures is not entirely clear. It could be a form of exhibitionism or a desire to initiate a sexual relationship or to get similar images back.

What can parents do against cyberflashing?

For those affected, receiving an unwanted dick pic is usually something unpleasant. Depending on the situation, the image can only annoy, disgust, disturb or traumatize – especially if it hits teenagers and young adults, or happens in a situation where others can still see the display. Talk openly and objectively with your child about the phenomenon of cyberflashing. If your child can be confident that he or she can discuss such issues with you, he or she will approach you if an incident should occur.

Receiving snapshots of your private parts without being asked is not only unpleasant – it is also punishable for the person sending them. According to paragraph 184 in the Penal Code, cyberflashing falls under the “distribution of pornographic writings”. This is not a trivial offense, but a criminal offense and can result in up to one year imprisonment or a fine. If you or your child receives a Dickpic, you should fight back. You can report the incident to the nearest police station. There are also online portals that make it quick and easy to advertise, such as the website dickstinction.com. If you suspect that your child is sending such pictures themselves, it is imperative that you discuss this seriously. It is best to advise your child of the possible consequences and the unpleasant situation for the recipient before it even happens. Therefore, stay in touch about your child’s media use!

To avoid receiving unwanted images, it is recommended that you check the security settings on your smartphone thoroughly with your child. AirDrop, as well as Bluetooth, is best turned off when your child is in a public space.

Your child should not even accept unexpected messages from unknown people. Some messengers, such as Signal, also offer settings that require people who are not yet in the phonebook to first make a contact request before they are allowed to send anything.

You can find help and advice here:

  • Extensive information on cyberflashing is available on the Deutsche Welle website.
  • HateAid explains exactly how to protect yourself or take action against cyberflashing and offers advice.
  • Further help pages for children and young people and for parents on the subject of sexual harassment online are listed in our article on cybergrooming.

Reading in the age of social media

Books and TikTok – how do they fit together? Young people show that it can be done. TikTok has long been more than a platform for colorful dance videos: Young people also use it to find out about current topics – including hot books. There are also people on YouTube and Instagram who share stories about reading and their latest reads.

Of bookfluencers and booktokers

Reading books seems to be losing importance in the age of social media. However, Booktok’s trend proves that digital and analog media need not be mutually exclusive. Reading also still has its place in the world of young people.

The term Booktok is a combination of the English word for book and the second part of the name of the popular app TikTok. There, mainly female readers share book tips under the hashtag #booktok – far away from bespectacled older gentlemen talking high-toned about literature. The videos are entertaining and appeal to young users. The so-called booktokers particularly enjoy reading books from the romance, fantasy, crime/thriller, and young adult genres.

The Young Adult book genre tells stories about growing up and therefore appeals especially to teenagers and young adults.

Publishers and bookstores are now also on TikTok, cranking up their sales in popular genres. Certain books become trendy via Booktok and thus become bestsellers. Some bookstores have their own book tables where the most popular publications are presented.

Reading challenges are also launched. In doing so, TikTokers introduce books on a particular theme, cover, etc.

There is also a large book community on Instagram: Bookstagram. Users exchange more information on books here than on TikTok. In the comments, people talk together about current readings, create reading circles and start so-called buddyreads (joint reading rounds).

It probably all started on YouTube, where reading recommendations can also be found under the hashtag #booktube.

Apps support the hype

Special apps can help make book reading itself a challenge. How many pages have I read this week? How many books can I finish in a month? They are called GoodReads, Read-O, Bookstats or Booksup – apps that can be used to track one’s reading behavior. Statistics can be shared directly on social media in some cases.

Such apps can motivate people to read more. Through some, users network with each other and write their own reviews. You can read a particular book in a buddyread at the same time and exchange ideas about it. When installing the app, you should pay attention to what other users see and what data the app collects and possibly passes on to third parties.

What else is there to consider?

Publishers use social media and influencers for advertising just like other companies. Even though books and reading are usually seen as positive, you and your child should look closely at what book is being advertised. Not always the opinion of the booktoker and bookstagramer is honest and unbiased, advertising is not always marked. Finally, book purchases can also run into money. Therefore, you should talk with your child about what and how many books really need to buy. Is your child just interested in presenting the book in a video or is he or she really interested in reading?

Use your local library and borrow some books from there. Many libraries have digital access points through which e-books can also be borrowed. An e-reader is also available for check-out at the library.

App permissions: Camera, microphone and co

To edit photos, make voice calls or send messages, apps need access rights to the camera, pictures, microphone or contacts. Most of the time, these permissions make sense to be able to use the apps fully. Sometimes it is not clear for what purpose apps want to access personal data. To help you review app permissions with your child, we’ll take a closer look at selected permission types in this article.


Here’s how this permission works: Apps are allowed access to the smartphone’s or tablet’s built-in cameras to take photos and videos.

These apps need access to the camera, for example:

Here this function is optional:

  • Photo and video editing: Apps for creative editing of photos and videos. The image memory can also be used here.
  • Unlock: A smartphone can be unlocked using facial recognition. It is safer to use a code or fingerprint, as facial recognition can be fooled by a photo held in front of the camera.

This risk must be taken into account:

There is a risk that apps with access to the camera will be used to record users unintentionally. To prevent this, you can attach a cover with a slider to the camera lens, for example.


This is how this permission works: Apps are allowed access to the microphone integrated in the smartphone.

These apps need access to the microphone, for example:

  • Communication: Apps for making phone calls, video conferencing or sending voice messages such as WhatsApp or Zoom.
  • Voice assistance: for entertaining with assistance systems such as Alexa, Siri and Co.
  • Audio recognition: Apps for the identification of bird calls like Birdnet or songs like Shazam.
  • Audio and video production: Audio apps for recording voice memos and radio plays, and video apps for dubbing videos and animated films.
  • Measure sound levels and tune musical instruments: Apps to control the volume or pitch.

Here this function is optional:

  • Voice control: Apps like Google Maps or search engines offer the option of entering commands verbally. The alternative is to submit it in writing.

This risk must be taken into account:

Apps that are allowed to access a device’s microphone can use this feature to listen in. Conversations, sounds from TV and radio, or music – there are apps that eavesdrop on their users around the clock and analyze them for keywords. The data is used for personalized advertising or resold for unclear purposes. Consent to this is done by agreeing to the terms of use when downloading the app. For interception, many services use a technology from the manufacturer Alphonso. If you search for it in the App Store or Play Store, you will find all apps that use this software. How exactly you can protect yourself from eavesdropping is explained by MDR in a Brisant feature.


This is how this permission works: Apps can access, modify, forward, and delete stored contact data, as well as search for specific contacts. You receive information about which contact is contacted, when, for how long and via which communication channel.

These apps require access to the contacts, for example:

  • Communication: Apps for making calls and sending messages like WhatsApp or Threema . With most messengers, access to contacts can be denied and the app still remains functional. The chat list will then only contain the phone numbers and not the names of the contacts.
  • Social Media: Apps for networking and connecting like BeReal or TikTok .

Here this function is optional:

  • Navigation and journey planner: Apps for finding the fastest way to the address of a saved contact.

This risk must be taken into account:

Apps that are allowed to access a device’s contact list can use this feature to collect personal data and analyze contact associations. This means that by accessing contacts, apps collect data from uninvolved people who do not have messenger or social media apps installed themselves. Be aware that your handling of personal data also affects third parties, namely your contacts.

Other permissions

You should also carefully review the following authorization types:

– the location , for example to use navigation apps

– the telephone, for example to call contacts

– The SMS, for example, to send a code for two-factor authentication.

– the calendar, for example to send appointment invitations

– the memory, for example to edit already created pictures and videos

A detailed list of all permission types of Android devices is provided by the AppChecker of the iRights.

What should parents pay attention to?

Explain to your child what app permissions are, how to set them and how to check them. Encourage your child to use their data sparingly and to protect it. Educate yourself together with your child before installing an app:

  • Do we really need the app?
  • Who is the app provider?
  • How many downloads does the app have and what are the user comments?
  • What does the app’s terms of use say?
  • How is the app positioned in terms of data protection?
  • What permissions does the app ask for?
  • Which of these would I need to agree to in order to use the app for my purposes?
  • Are all authorizations traceable?

If you or your child have granted an authorization that you do not use or are critical of, you can cancel the authorization at any time. See the article on app permissions for instructions on Android and Apple device settings.

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