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Regulating media time: screen time and digital wellbeing

An hour on the Internet sometimes feels like a few minutes. Adults know this feeling as well as children. A new notification, a new post, quickly finish the level and take a quick look at TikTok – but then it’s really over! Many apps are designed to keep us glued to the screen with constant new stimuli. This makes it increasingly difficult to simply put the device down. Special apps for regulating media time or setting options aim to help people use media more consciously.

Screen time on Apple devices

Screen time is a function on the iPhone, iPad and MacBook that shows you how much time you spend each day with which apps. You can block certain apps for a certain period of time or after a set time has elapsed. It is also possible to block certain content (e.g. age-restricted movies or games). With the help of family sharing – another Apple function – these settings can also be made on other devices.

To set up the screen time:

  • Directly on the device: You can set up screen time either on your own device or on your child’s device.
  • Via Family Sharing: Alternatively, you can set the screen time for each family member individually via your device in Family Sharing.
  • Share across devices: If you tap on “Share across devices”, you can also transfer your specified settings to the iPad and other Apple devices.

You can find step-by-step instructions on how to set up Screen Time on the Apple support pages.

Digital Wellbeing on Android Devices

On Android devices, Digital Wellbeing is integrated as a function in the settings as of Android 9. Here you can see at a glance how often the smartphone and the individual apps were used. Android offers three options for regulating media time at once:

  • App timer: The app timer can be used to set usage times for individual apps. Once the timer has expired, the app is paused for the rest of the day.
  • Concentration mode: Concentration mode helps you to avoid distractions and stay focused. Previously selected apps are completely deactivated in the meantime.
  • Sleep mode: Sleep mode is designed to help improve your sleep rhythm. Set the weekdays and the corresponding rest periods individually here.

Android also offers a step-by-step guide to setting up Digital Wellbeing .

What should parents pay attention to?

Parental controls on Apple devices: Screen Time also offers the option of regulating your child’s smartphone use and, for example, preventing purchases in the App Store or content with certain age ratings. Detailed instructions on parental controls are available from Apple Support.

Parental control on Android devices: The parental control functions are not directly integrated into the operating system of Android devices. You can still keep an eye on your child’s media use with the free Google Family Link app. More detailed information can be found on the Google help pages.

As a general rule, you should keep in mind that your child may feel controlled by you by regulating his or her media use. Therefore, talk openly with your child about the setting options and consider together which ones make sense.

As your child becomes more independent over time, settings should be reconsidered regularly. Of course, the older your child is, the more he or she will know how to avoid certain settings. However, if you trust your child, there is usually no reason to do so.

Also think together about how you want to organize media time and media-free time in the family. Set a good example by demonstrating responsible use of digital media yourself.

Young Children and Media: Insights from the miniKIM Study 2023

Even for the very youngest children, the world of media is omnipresent. The miniKIM study, initiated by the Media Education Research Association Southwest, provides insightful data on the media behavior of children between the ages of two and five. This article summarizes the key findings of the latest 2023 study and provides practical tips for parents.

Access to smart devices: The study shows that access to smart devices is increasing among young children. Around one in five children has their own tablet and one in ten has access to a smartphone. These devices are often used for both educational and entertainment purposes.

Parental attitudes: Many parents are of the opinion that smartphones harbor many risks for young children and should be viewed rather critically. However, around half of those surveyed also see advantages in its use, such as the potential to learn new things and playful education.

Streaming and media consumption: Streaming services are now also popular with the youngest children and have supplemented or even replaced traditional television as the main source of moving image content.

Responsibility and media education: The study emphasizes the importance of supervised media use to ensure a safe and positive environment for young children. It is recommended that parents monitor their children’s media activities and select appropriate content.

What should parents bear in mind?

  • Supervised use: Accompany your child when using digital media and select age-appropriate and safe content together.
  • Set rules: Set clear limits for screen time to ensure a balanced daily structure with enough space for other activities.
  • Use security settings: Activate parental controls on all devices to prevent access to inappropriate content.
  • See media as part of development: Use interactive and educational apps designed specifically for young children to encourage learning through play.
  • Role model function: Be a good role model with regard to your own media consumption and media usage habits.

In addition to this article, we also offer in-depth insights into media use of older children with the KIM Study 2022 and of young people with the JIM study.

The results and further information on the miniKIM Study 2023 can be found in detail on the website of the Media Education Research Association Southwest.

Children and Media: Insights from the KIM Study 2022

Media are omnipresent and play a central role in children’s everyday lives. The KIM study by the Media Education Research Association Southwest regularly provides insights into the media use of children between the ages of six and 13 in Germany. This article summarizes the most important findings of the latest 2022 study and provides tips on how parents can better support their children in dealing with media.

  • Increasing Internet use and device ownership: Internet use and smartphone ownership increase significantly as children get older. While 38 percent of six to seven-year-olds use the Internet, almost all twelve to 13-year-olds do. From the age of 10 to 11, more than half of children have their own smartphone.
  • Unaccompanied media use: A majority of children often use media without parental supervision. This applies to surfing the Internet, using tablets and watching television. Digital games and the internet in particular are increasingly being used alone, which has increased further since the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Social media and apps: Popular platforms among children are WhatsApp, YouTube and TikTok. Despite age restrictions, many children use these services, which raises questions about parental control and supervision.
  • Parental attitudes: Many parents recognize the potential dangers of the Internet, but rarely use technical security measures such as filters or special settings to protect their children. This shows a certain inconsistency in dealing with children’s media use.
  • Media education and responsibility: Most parents see both the school and themselves as having a responsibility to teach children how to use media appropriately. Nevertheless, there is a need for more information and support for parents to develop effective strategies for media education.

What should parents bear in mind?

  • Encourage communication: Actively have open conversations about the content your child sees online and who they communicate with online.
  • Use media as a tool: Use age-appropriate apps and websites to encourage learning and support your child’s creative skills.
  • Determine screen time: Set screen time rules together. Consider your child’s age, activities, and needs.
  • Adjust security settings: Use parental controls to restrict access to inappropriate content.
  • Be a role model: Check your own media use and adjust it if necessary.
  • Stay informed: Find out about the devices and platforms your child uses. Regularly discuss media trends or your child’s activities.

In addition to this article, we also offer in-depth insights into the media use of younger children with the miniKIM study and the media habits of teenagers with the JIM study.

The results and further information on the KIM Study 2022 can be found in detail on the website of the Media Education Research Association Southwest.

Youth and media: Insights from the JIM Study 2023

Youth and media: Insights from the JIM Study 2023

The JIM study, conducted by the Media Education Research Association Southwest, provides revealing data on media use by German young people aged 12 to 19. This article summarizes key findings from the latest 2023 study and shows how parents can support young people.

Extensive internet use: Young people spend an average of 224 minutes online every day, with messenger services and social media being particularly popular. WhatsApp is used regularly by 94% of young people, followed by Instagram (62%), TikTok ( 59%) and Snapchat (49%).

Popular media content: Alongside social networks, Netflix and YouTube are the leading platforms for watching series, shows and films among young people. 63 percent of young people regularly use YouTube, while 50 percent use Netflix.

Media and leisure activities: The study also shows that young people organize their leisure time in a variety of ways. In addition to media use, 70 percent of young people regularly meet up with friends, 62 percent regularly play sport and 35 percent read books at least once a week.

Confrontation with problematic content: Unfortunately, young people are increasingly confronted with problematic content. A third of girls and a quarter of boys have been sexually harassed online. 23 percent of young people were unintentionally confronted with pornographic content.

What should parents pay attention to?

  • Open communication: Have regular open conversations with your child about their online activities and experiences.
  • Promotion of media literacySupport your child in critically scrutinizing content and navigating the Internet safely.
  • Balanced media use: Help your child to find a healthy balance between online and offline activities.
  • Promote security awareness: Make your child aware of data protection and the risks of disclosing personal information.

In addition to this article, we also offer in-depth insights into media use of young children with the miniKIM study and the media habits of children with the the KIM Study 2022.

The results and further information on the JIM Study 2023 can be found in detail on the website of the Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest.Formularende

The TOGGO app: a universe of games and learning for children

Paw Patrol, Pokémon, Peppa Wutz – the TOGGO app offers children a comprehensive range of entertainment tailored specifically to their needs and interests. With a wide selection of series, interactive games, radio plays and music, the app is aimed specifically at young users of different ages. We present the offer.

In a nutshell:

  • App with videos, games, radio plays, interactive content, music (TOGGO radio) and competitions
  • For children aged 2 and over (Toggolino area) and 6 and over (TOGGO area)
  • Available on Android and iOS
  • Free to use, contains advertising
  • Internet connection required for use

What is behind the offer?

The app aims to offer children and young people a safe and entertaining platform. It contains a wide range of content with series, games, radio plays and music tailored to different age groups. The Toggolino area is specially designed for children between the ages of 2 and 5 and enables them to navigate easily and without text. This protected area can only be exited with a text code, so children cannot do this by mistake. You need support from someone who can read. The TOGGO area is aimed at older children up to the age of 14 and offers a greater variety of exciting content, such as multiplayer games that can also be played with friends.

What excites children and young people about it?

The app meets the needs of children at different stages of development: Younger children enjoy the simple and fun content in the Toggolino section, while older children can discover exciting adventures and cool, challenging games in the TOGGO section. Regular updates and new content ensure that there is always something new to discover. The opportunity to interact with the app keeps children busy and encourages their creativity. Content that is tailored to the age and interests of the users ensures a personalized experience that children particularly enjoy.

What can be problematic about the offer?

  • Internet connection: The app requires a permanent internet connection to use, which increases data consumption.
  • Advertising: The app contains advertisements, all of which are suitable for children.
  • Data protection and privacy: It is possible that personal data may be collected and stored, for example when participating in competitions.

What does the provider think?

Super RTL emphasizes that the app is designed to be safe and suitable for children. Various measures are taken to protect the privacy and safety of the children. This includes strict compliance with the data protection guidelines, which can be viewed on the app’s website.

What should parents pay attention to?

Actively accompany the use of the offer: Select the content together and accompany the use depending on the age of your child to ensure that the content is suitable. Talk openly with your child about the safe use of digital media, especially about the importance of data protection.

Sharing: Discover the content together with your child to share their experiences. Integrate your child’s opinion when selecting new content to encourage interest and participation.

Use the available settings: Customize the content according to your child’s age and level of development.

Open communication: Discuss with your child what to do if they come across inappropriate content or have difficulties using it. Clarify what needs to be considered when playing virtual games together if your child networks with friends in multiplayer games within the app.

Set usage limits: Encourage balanced leisure activities by jointly defining the duration of use.

Encourage alternative learning and play resources: Motivate your child to explore non-digital learning and play resources.

Explain advertising: Explain to your child what advertising is and how it works to create an awareness of commercial content.

Epic Games Launcher

Who Fortnite and the like, there’s no getting around this provider: the Epic Games Launcher from game developer Epic. We explain what the gaming platform offers and what parents should bear in mind when it comes to protecting minors.

In brief

  • Epic ‘s distribution platform for games
  • Desktop app for PCs (Mac and Windows)
  • Buy games, play, communicate via chat
  • User account free of charge, some games subject to a charge
  • According to the T&Cs, under-18s require the consent of a parent or guardian; players under the age of 13 automatically receive restricted accounts.
  • Extensive child safety lock can be set

What does the Epic Games Launcher offer?

The Epic Games Launcher distributes games from Epic and other manufacturers. While the majority of games are chargeable, there are also numerous free games in the launcher. Popular free games include Fortnite, Rocket League and Fall Guys . It should be noted, however, that optional in-game purchases and microtransactions are offered within the games.

Via Epic Games, users can purchase games, play them and chat with other players. Players create an account, buy access to a game and thus acquire the right to play the games on the platform. The platform can best be compared with the popular gaming platform Steam platform. A special feature is that certain games that normally cost between EUR 20 and 60 are offered for free at weekly intervals in the Epic Games Launcher. However, users must select the game in the launcher during the respective offer week and add it to their Epic account.

What makes Epic Games so popular with children and young people?

Battle Royale games such as Fortnite and Fall Guys fascinate children and young people. Great heroine stories are told here and battles are fought that require strategy and team spirit. Through Epic Games, young people can try out different games, connect with their friends and constantly discover new games on the market. The weekly free games also give children and young people with a limited pocket money budget access to the latest titles.

What can be problematic about the Epic Games Launcer?

Anyone who deletes or blocks their account will lose access to the entire game library and all game achievements. Anyone using an unprotected account can be confronted with communication risks such as hate speech or extreme opinions, spend a lot of money on in-game purchases or play games that are not appropriate for their age. The parental controls include settings such as a chat filter for offensive language, spending limits, age restrictions and much more. The playing time cannot be limited. However, parents can currently have a weekly Fortnite playtime report sent to them by email.

What does the provider think?

Epic Games offers game developers a paid platform to bring their games to market. A right of return within 14 days applies to every game. In the community rules, Epic Games sets out guidelines for dealing with each other. The provider prohibits misconduct such as bullying or harassment and threatens consequences such as blocking the user’s account. Users can use the report form to report misconduct by other users. Each account can be protected by two-factor authentication. Parents can customize the use of the Epic Games Launcher for their children via the parental controls. Using a parental PIN, they can set age ratings for access to games and Fortnite experiences, restrict purchases and customize online interaction options such as voice chat and linking with friends. Epic Games offers parents and guardians a dedicated contact form for support requests.

What should parents pay attention to?

Use the technical settings for youth media protection and set up your child’s Epic Games account in an age-appropriate manner. If your child is between 13 and 15 years old, we recommend setting up a children’s account. If your child plays Fortnite and other games on a games console, activate the safety settings for children there too. As the playing time cannot be restricted via the gaming platform, use the settings options on the console or PC for screen time if required. When selecting games, pay attention to the USK age rating and only allow your child access to age-appropriate games. You can find an overview and detailed instructions on parental controls at medien-kindersicher.de. Be aware that technical youth media protection does not replace media education, but is a supporting element. Stay open and interested and talk to your child regularly about their favorite games. Talk to your child about their play and interaction experiences. Don’t overlook risks such as contact with strangers and agree on rules for dealing with games in the family.

Bitzee – a digital pet for my child?

It’s cute, wants to be fed and invites you to play: Bitzee, the electronic pet in the box. The game is becoming increasingly popular with children and is a frequent topic of conversation in the playground. We explain what the digital toy is all about.

In brief

  • Electronic toys
  • 15 Caring for pets from baby to super animal
  • From 5 years
  • Cost: 39.99 euros (as of June 2024)
  • Provider: Spin Master

What can the Bitzee do?

Feeding, stroking, playing – the Bitzee is a digital pet you can touch and works on a similar principle to a Tamagotchi from the 1990s, but in a modern version. In a handy box, a moving display brings one of 15 different characters to life and encourages play and interaction. The display works similarly to a hologram and reacts to touch. At the beginning, there are three pets available, such as a dog, fish or hedgehog, the so-called “Bitzees”. When the box is opened, the Bitzee uses a sound and the display to tell you what it needs. If the tasks such as feeding, rocking to sleep or cleaning up droppings are completed, the Bitzee develops from a baby to an adult animal to a super Bitzee. The entire box is used for this: the Bitzee reacts to movements such as tilting, lifting and shaking the box as well as swiping across the bar. Once all the tasks of a bite are completed, a mini-game is unlocked and a new treat is ready. This can be used to unlock new Bitzees.

What fascinates children/youth about it?

The Bitzee is great fun for children. Digital toys are particularly popular at an early primary school age. Children form Bitzee groups, show each other their digital animals, compare them and play together. Bitzees are a popular way to relieve boredom and offer an alternative to gaming on mobile devices. The handy box means they can accompany children everywhere. Many children have a desire for a pet. The need to take care of something is fulfilled to a certain extent by the Bitzee. Players achieve quick success: those who look after their Bitzee well are rewarded with an increase in the Heart-O-Meter and quickly advance to a higher game level. The mini-games, funny sounds and small animations are fun for children.

What can be problematic about the offer?

The moving display is a projection and flickers. These light reflections can be dangerous for epileptics, which is why the instructions contain a health warning. The vibrations of the display produce a noise that is quite loud and cannot be regulated. The toy is battery-operated and soon becomes less attractive once all 15 animals have been unlocked. In terms of sustainability, the question arises as to the cost-benefit aspect of this digital toy.

What does the provider think?

Instructions in various languages are available on the website. The Bitzee box only sends messages when it is open. If a pet ‘s needs are not met, the animals may run away. However, they can be attracted again with treats. The device can be reset and all animals can be played again. Bitzee was awarded 3rd place in the TOMMI Children’s Software Prize by the jury of children and experts. The provider Spin Master has announced that it will be expanding its range and developing even more gaming experiences “out of the box”.

What should parents pay attention to?

Children love to look after the Bitzee and play with it. They quickly develop an ambition to bring each animal up to the highest level and unlock more animals. This provides an incentive to play the game again and again. This urge to play a lot quickly subsides as soon as the 15 animals have been played through. If the box is closed, nothing happens – the Bitzee takes a break and there are no disadvantages in the game. Help your child to put the Bitzee to one side and find balance in other activities. Keep an eye on your child’s media time and agree on rules for gaming in the family. If your child wants to have a Bitzee, discuss the background to the request together and don’t let other parents’ rules put you under pressure. Readindependent reviewsfrom other consumers and make an informed decision together.

Gamer’s Guide NRW

Whether sports games on the console, platformers on the cell phone or online role-playing games on the PC – the range of digital games on offer is huge. Many parents ask themselves: “Which game is suitable for my child?”. It is important to pay attention to the legal age limit for games. This can often be recognized by a coloured USK label. However, age ratings are not educational recommendations, but provide information on whether the game is safe from the point of view of the protection of minors. In order to be able to assess whether a game is suitable for their own child, parents should also find out more about computer games. Offers such as the NRW Players’ Guide . Parents will find educational assessments of popular games and information on the opportunities and risks of digital games.

In a nutshell:

  • Media-pedagogical information offer for parents
  • independent and free of charge
  • Detailed profiles of over 1,900 games
  • Educational guide to games topics
  • via the website and YouTube to use

What does the NRW player guide offer?

The information offered by the “Fachstelle für Jugendmedienkultur NRW” helps parents understand what their child is playing or would like to play on the computer, game console or smartphone.

Under the “Games” tab, numerous games can be displayed and found using the filter and search function via the categories genre, age recommendation and platform. The detailed descriptions help parents to understand the gaming experience of the individual games. All the games described are tested and evaluated by children and young people in game test groups. Media education experts provide assessments of the level of difficulty, content and risks. This results in an educational age recommendation for each game.

One of the focal points of the offer is the accessibility of games. Some games were tested for barriers in the “barrier check” in the categories of vision, hearing, comprehension and control. Some game reviews are available in plain language.

If you click on the “Guide” menu item, you can access a wide range of articles on topics such as age ratings, youth protection, opportunities and risks of games and youth culture. Contributions from the youth editorial team provide an insight into current topics and issues from the perspective of young gamers. The YouTube account of Spieleratgeber NRW offers Let’s Play videos and tutorials, for example on parental control settings for individual games.

This is what the provider means

The Fachstelle für Jugendmedienkultur NRW would like to support parents and guardians with its services in the area of contemporary media education. The NRW Game Guide sees itself as an educational supplement to the USK age ratings. The service aims to dispel the reservations and insecurities of many parents regarding computer and online games and to educate them about current issues relating to gaming and media. As a publicly funded project, Spieleratgeber NRW is not allowed to advertise individual games, which is why the descriptions are kept largely neutral.

What should parents pay attention to?

The website Spieleratgeber NRW offers parents valuable educational information that is easy to find thanks to the clear website structure. The perspective of young people makes the world of digital games easy for parents to understand.

Please note: Even if the games are tested and evaluated by children and young people themselves, the experience of each child is individual – regardless of age. While some can process certain content well, other children may still be overwhelmed. For parents of younger children, it is recommended to play and try out the games together for the first time. It is even better if you try a game before you play it together with your child.

As an alternative or supplement to the NRW Game Guide, the spielbar.de website also offers neutral educational reviews of numerous games and articles on the topics of gaming and media.

Diversity in the gaming scene – a portrait of Let’s Players

Is gaming only for boys? Far from it! According to the JIM Study 2023, over half of the girls aged 12 to 19 surveyed said they gambled several times a week. The following games are particularly popular Minecraft , The Sims , Hay Day and Mario Kart. The gaming scene is dominated by men, and many successful gaming stars such as Gronkh and Elias N97 are male. However, there are more and more female and queer Let’s Players and they are important role models for young gamers.

What do Let’s Players do?

Let’s Players play video games and share their strategies and tips with their followers. They comment on and rate the game in an entertaining way. They upload the Let’s Play videos to platforms such as YouTube and communicate with their fans via the comments. Some gaming stars stream their gaming sessions on Twitch live and interact directly with their audience. Major gaming influencers use various business models to earn lots of clicks and money.

Who is actually playing?

Jasmin Gnu known as Gnu, is one of the most prominent female Let’s Players in Germany. She became famous a few years ago mainly through her humorous and entertaining videos on YouTube and streams on Twitch. Gnu plays games like The Sims , GTA and Fortnite and her fans love her for her authentic and likeable nature. In addition to her Let’s Plays, she also produces content on various topics such as sexism in the gaming industry and dealing with her eating disorder.

Honeyball whose real name is Isabel Barbara Zimmermann, has been active in the gaming community for more than ten years. Her fans appreciate her self-deprecating comments and her positive attitude. She became known for her Let’s Plays of sandbox and role-playing games such as Minecraft and The Sims. Honeyball is also active as a creative and creates texture packs for Minecraft as a game designer, which are appreciated and further developed by the community.

Antonia Staab alias Reved began her career in 2019 and is known for her diverse content on Twitch and YouTube. It streams a wide range of games from well-known titles to indie games. It shows a mixture of gaming, chatting and creative formats such as quiz shows. In 2023, she launched the Stream Awards, which honor outstanding moments and personalities from the Twitch community. Reved is bisexual.

Even more streamers can be seen in the child-friendly video series “Ansage!” on the children’s TV channel KiKA. There, young gamers challenge well-known streamers such as Sissor, Mowky, Freiraumreh, Kiara and Shorty in gaming challenges.

Why are female and queer Let’s Players important for children and young people?

Many game-loving children and young people not only play games themselves, but also enjoy watching others play them. They can learn more about a game, get tricks for difficult tasks and be entertained by their favorite stars.

It is important that they not only experience the male perspective, but that there are also female and queer Let’s Players. They show different perspectives on gaming and are role models for female and queer young people who want to recognize themselves in the gaming community. They prove that anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, can be successful in gaming.

Female and queer gamers often have a hard time in the male-dominated scene and can become victims of online hate. The presence of female and queer Let’s Players can make a decisive contribution to making the gaming community more diverse, open and representative. They contribute to greater visibility and can support positive social change towards greater acceptance.

What should parents pay attention to?

No matter who your child’s favorite Let’s Players and streamers are, it’s best to watch Let’s Plays together with your child. This will help you better understand what your child enjoys about Let’s Players and learn more about your child’s gaming hobby.

The gaming world is still heavily male-dominated. Broaden your child’s perspective and draw their attention to a gaming star with a female or queer identity.

Make sure that your child does not watch any Let’s Play videos of games that are not approved for children of a certain age. Keep in touch with your child about the business models of Let’s Players. Help him analyze advertising, product placements and other forms of money-making. Discuss the language of gamers with your child. Make your child aware of communication risks online and explain to them how they can deal with unpleasant situations.

Games, Games, Games

Computer games are a topic in many families and often a cause for conflict. On Elternguide.online there are lots of articles where you can get suggestions for dealing with games in the family. A small selection:

Parents ask – we answer: What should I watch out for when my son plays video games?

Children and young people love to play games – including computer and online games. Media educator Fabian Wörz explains in a video what needs to be considered.

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Fascination Gaming – What makes gaming fun?

Immerse yourself in game worlds, compete with others, switch off and cultivate friendships. In this article, we explain what attracts children and young people to video games.

“Just this one more round!” – Games in the family

Here you will find a collection of tips for dealing with computer games in your family. The article is available to read and as an audio file. Helpful setting options for devices and platforms to limit the playing time and protect against costs can be found in this text.

“But mom, that game isn’t bad at all!” – Age restrictions for games

Which game is suitable for my child? In this article you will find information on the protection of minors in video games and what else you should look out for when choosing games. Who actually checks what age a game is suitable for? We explain interesting facts about the age rating of digital games in Germany in the article on the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK).

When the circle of friends consists of avatars – communication in online games

Computer games are a very communicative activity because gamers often meet online to play. You can read about the opportunities and risks involved in this in this article. In addition to general communication risks such as online bullying, hate among gamers and extremist speech on gaming forums can also become an issue.


My child wants a game console – now what?

If the game is not played on a smartphone or computer, a games console is used. This is at the top of many wish lists – read our article to find out what you should bear in mind. Gambling – but safely! Security settings for Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Playstation can be found in this article. Various game mechanics can increase the pressure to keep playing and make it difficult to find an end to the game.

Improve skills with online gaming

More and more people are becoming aware that computer games have many positive effects. You can read more about this in our article.

Much more on Elternguide.online

This is only a small selection of contributions to the topic. On our page you will find an introduction to the five most popular genres of online games and descriptions of the most popular computer and mobile games among children and young people, such as Roblox, Minecraft, Brawl Stars and Fortnite. We offer explanations of gaming platforms such as Twitch and Steam and cloud gaming services such as Amazon Luna, shedding light on various distribution channels for games in general and the games-as-a-service business model in particular. You can also find articles on our website about dangers such as violence in games or computer game addiction and much more.

Search engines for children and teenagers

“How far is it to the moon?”, “Did dinosaurs have milk teeth?”, “Why do we celebrate Halloween?” – Children and young people are naturally curious and have lots of questions. They also surf the Internet in search of answers. But watch out: Google and other search engines were not developed primarily for children. Without filtering, children can quickly end up on pages with inappropriate content. That’s why there are children’s search engines.

Children’s search engines – what is it?

Children’s search engines are easy to use and use child-friendly language and images. They only link to content that is safe and interesting for children. All websites are checked and approved in advance by media educators. This enables safe surfing on the net.

In addition to the search function, many children’s search engines also offer educational videos, games and articles on various topics. They often offer tips on how children can best use search engines. For example, there are tips on specific search terms, searching for images or checking sources. In this way, children acquire important skills and develop their media literacy. Older children can be introduced to adult search engines after this practice period.

What are the search engines?

  • For children aged 6 to 12, the ad-free search engine fragFINN . The service has a playful structure, is data-secure and is also available as a child protection app.
  • Bright minds is aimed at children and young people aged 8 to 16. These websites contain child-friendly articles and links to safe online games and videos.
  • For older children, common search engines such as Google Ecosia, Yahoo and Bing are relevant. Certain filters can be activated there. They prevent inappropriate content (e.g. violence or sexual content) from being displayed in the search results. These filters are called Google , Bing and Yahoo “SafeSearch. With some search engines, an account can be created with which filters can be activated permanently and password-protected. You can read more about this in our article “Secure search on the Internet”.

What should parents pay attention to?

Children’s search engines are designed so that children can use them independently and have the most positive surfing experience possible during their first steps on the Internet. Accompany your child during the first use and explore the search engine together. This way you can explain important functions for the search in more detail. After the first joint testing, children can use the respective children’s search engine independently without hesitation. For this purpose, it is recommended to set up a child search engine for the default search in the browser. In addition, a child search engine can be set up as the start page.

If your child already knows how to use search engines and wants to use search engines such as Google , activate the “SafeSearch” filter for more security. Please note that despite filters, the search is never as secure as the review of content by media educators and that filters can be activated and deactivated independently under certain circumstances. Agree with your child on how to respond when he or she encounters inappropriate content. You can report inappropriate content that is displayed despite filter settings to the respective search engines.

Popular games: Fortnite

Fortnite has been one of the most popular online games among children and teenagers since its release in 2017. Many game modes are approved for ages 12 and up, but are often used by much younger players.

In a nutshell:

  • Video game from EPIC Games
  • Minimum age according to the legal age rating of the USK for most game modes: 12 years, educational recommendation according to the NRW game guide: 14 years
  • Many player-created Fortnite“islands” from the creative mode have different age ratings according to the IARC system
  • Free app for PC, Mac and all common consoles as well as via detours also on smartphones
  • Contains in-app purchases, communication and contact options

What is Fortnite?

When talking about Fortnite, it is important to note that it is not just a game. Rather, Fortnite has developed into a platform for online games with different game modes, which often share the same visuals and setting. In the only paid mode, “Save The World”, you have to build a fortress with other players to protect the last human survivors from zombies.

The free version “Fortnite Battle Royale” is far better known and more popular, in which the aim is to kill all other players, either alone or in a team, in order to survive. There is also a creative mode, which is presented in our article Creative with Fortnite and Minecraft and in which violence and time pressure can be completely dispensed with.

The three new modes “Fortnite Festival”, “Fortnite Racing” and “Lego Fortnite” have also been added. While “Fortnite Festival” is more like a rhythm game, “Fortnite Racing”, as the name suggests, is all about fast races. In “Lego Fortnite”, players have to fight monsters and construct buildings together, with the figures and content being kept in the look of classic Lego toys.

What does Fortnite currently offer?

Fortnite is available on all popular consoles such as the Playstation 4/5, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One/Series. The app can also be downloaded on the PC and for Mac. The app can also be installed on Android and Apple devices via a few detours, but not via the classic Google Play Store or Apple App Store. The game can also be streamed to many devices via the increasingly popular cloud gaming providers such as Amazon Luna.

In March 2022, “Fortnite Battle Royale” added the so-called “No Build” mode. In this variant, players cannot build protective structures such as walls and have to think of new ways to gain an advantage over other players, such as a height advantage. Fortnite is currently working a lot with other companies and franchises to integrate their content into the game. Pop artist Billie Eilish has immortalized herself as a playable character in the game. Heroes from Star Wars, Avatar – The Lord of the Elements, My Hero Academia and many more also bring a breath of fresh air to the game.

Creative mode in particular has changed a lot in recent years. Players can now create their own “islands” and integrate their own game objectives. Although many of these islands copy the familiar “Battle Royale” mode, other islands are completely non-violent. There may therefore even be different age ratings and recommendations within Fortnite.

What fascinates children and young people about this offer?

Rarely has a game generated so much hype. Certainly also because parts of Fortnite are free and can be played on various platforms. Moreover, it is easy to get into the game without any previous knowledge.

The gameplay is very exciting and provides plenty of adrenaline. Thus, game players must constantly be on guard, quickly hide from attackers and develop good strategies to survive. The round principle provides the incentive to do better in the next round than in the previous one. Funny details like the worldwide known joy and victory dances of the game characters add to the fun of the game.

What is problematic about the offer?

Fortnite ‘s “Battle Royale” mode has been heavily criticized due to the USK age rating of 12 and up. Gun violence is the only option here, but a necessary one to win the game. Fortnite does not contain any detailed depictions of violence, no blood flows, there are no corpses to be seen and the cartoon look also plays down the violent gameplay. Still, the goal is to kill each other. Children in particular could lose awareness of this very quickly. At the same time, 12-year-olds can already see through this match-fixing because of their media experience.

Fortnite “Battle Royale” is nevertheless very nerve-wracking, as players have to constantly scan their surroundings for threats. This pressure can cause children and young people to feel stressed and overwhelmed. During the game rounds, many game pieces are quickly eliminated. This can cause frustration in a short time when it hits your own avatar.

If you want to play Fortnite, you need an account with EPIC Games. To do this, it is necessary to provide an email address or that of an existing account, such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Nintendo, Playstation or Xbox.

The game allows the purchase of virtual currency, so-called V-Bucks. This can be used to buy virtual items like outfits, victory dances, or even access to weekly challenges with real money. These items and functions are not necessary for the game, but they are exciting, especially for children and teenagers. In recent years, the cooperation with well-known franchises such as Marvel or Star Wars has been expanded enormously, which should boost the voluntary in-app purchases. Some of these offers are often only available for purchase for a limited time, which can lead to the fear of missing out(FOMO).

What should parents pay attention to?

Please note that the various game modes have been given their respective age ratings for different reasons. It is not only the violence depicted that can be decisive, but also increased incentives to buy. Fortnite should be seen as a game as a service, for which we have written a separate article.

In particular, the “islands” created by users have their own age labels, which were assigned according to the so-called IARC system and can therefore also be aimed at younger children.

If your child wants to play Fortnite, take a look at the game yourself beforehand and talk to your child about why they find Fortnite interesting. Play together and let your child explain what it is all about and agree on common rules. Keep an eye on your child’s screen time and make technical settings to make it easier to balance gaming and other leisure activities.

Also try to make your child aware that Fortnite is about violence and that this should not be underestimated. But that doesn’t mean that computer games necessarily make people violent.

Be there as a contact person if your child encounters inappropriate content or unpleasant fellow players. Players who behave inappropriately can be reported via the game menu. Use the Fortnite parental controls and set them up together with your child. For example, a PIN can be used to restrict payments and interaction and communication options. You can also restrict the content your child can see in Fortnite. For example, they can completely block game modes that are not age-appropriate for their child. You can find clear instructions for parents on how to do this at medien-kindersicher.de.

Everyone gets involved – involving caregivers in media education

“But I can be on my cell phone as much as I want with Grandma!”, “I’m allowed to be on my cell phone with my uncle. Fortnite gamble!”, “Today we watched another movie at school!” – Do statements like this sound familiar? Not only when it comes to Media rules of other parents goes. It can also be challenging for you as a parent if other caregivers are involved in media education. Perhaps you are wondering how you can deal with this.

Media education – not just a matter for parents

Choosing media according to age, limiting screen time, being a role model – as parents, you lay the foundation for your child’s conscious and competent use of media. The older your child gets, the more freely your child moves around and spends more and more time away from home. If they are alone with their grandparents, in an educational institution or visiting their cousins, other caregivers will automatically get involved in the use of media. This can affect the selection and duration of media content, but also your child’s privacy, such as sharing children’s photos.

Be careful with children’s photos – children’s rights are everyone’s business

If your child is on vacation at their aunt’s and you discover excursion pictures in their WhatsApp status or on social media, you as a parent may not necessarily be thrilled. Especially if the sharing of sensitive data was not previously agreed. Not all adults know that sharing children’s photos online can be problematic. Children have a right to privacy. Depending on their age and stage of development, they – and their parents – should be asked what pictures of them can be seen on the Internet. Talk to photo-loving relatives about this and express your views clearly. How to protect your child’s rights.

Regulating media use outside the home

As parents, you bear the main responsibility for a healthy upbringing with media. Which games are suitable for which age, what happens to your child’s data online, how devices and apps can be set to be child-safe – the media world is huge, confusing and constantly changing. As parents, you are faced with the challenge of staying up to date and informed – and you may be more on the ball than your child’s caregivers.

Perhaps you have negotiated media rules in the family or agreed a media usage contract with your child. There may be different rules for the siblings due to their age difference. Don’t be afraid to approach grandparents and co. Make your family’s media rules transparent and explain why it is important to you that the rules are also observed outside the home. Of course, time with grandpa, godmother or cousin can be something special, also in terms of media. Ask for exceptions to be agreed with you in advance. Because an open exchange is important for a trusting relationship. Keep in touch with your child about their media use outside the home and always have an open ear for problems. In this way, you can promote your child’s independence and media skills.

Shaping education together – also when it comes to media

If your child surfs the Internet at the youth club, photos from the carnival party end up in the class chat or is allowed to play games on the tablet at the after-school care center, this is part of your child’s mediatized world. Educational institutions usually have a media concept and pursue media education goals. If you are not comfortable with something, speak to the educational staff and approach them with an open and questioning attitude. Always ask for your child’s point of view – this way you both keep learning about media.

Game Master and co – creepy trends on the net

Creepy phenomena like the Game Master, scary chain letters like Momo or horror figures like Huggy Wuggy are constantly circulating on the Internet. But what exactly is behind it? And how can parents react to this? In this article we explain.

What or who is a game master?

The so-called Game Master is a darkly dressed, masked stranger who contacts YouTubers via WhatsApp or letter and sets them scary or dangerous tasks. These tasks must then be completed as quickly as possible. If the YouTubers do not fulfill the task set, they face penalties. Some of the Game Master’s actions even cross borders: he allegedly turns up at YouTubers’ homes or breaks into them and destroys their property. Their videos show how helpless the YouTubers seem to be at the mercy of the Game Master.

Have you ever seen a YouTube video featuring the supposed Game Master? Then you will have quickly noticed that the character and the story around it are made up. Presumably a person from the circle of friends has put on dark clothing and a mask. The interaction between YouTuber and Game Master is therefore a game.

Scary is very popular with children and young people

Whether it’s scary chain letters, creepy videos, horror computer games like Poppy Playtime or dark quotes from films and memes – many children and young people really enjoy these kinds of trends. There are many reasons for this: by consuming scary videos and messages, children and young people can test their own limits, prove something to others, distract themselves mentally or simply feel the adrenaline rush. For them, following the creepy trends is both exciting and scary at the same time. It is a small challenge, especially for children, to dare to watch such videos or read the news.

The big problem here is that children and young people do not always understand how such content is staged. Younger children in particular are not even aware of the actual origin of a scary phenomenon and are unable to classify it or find it difficult to do so.

What parents should pay attention to

News and videos like those of the Game Masters are designed to spread fear and horror among young viewers. Talk to your child about what is behind these phenomena. Explain to them that such videos or chain letters cannot be genuine. For example, ask yourself together how you would react if an unknown person came to your home unintentionally and wanted to harm you. Agree with your child that they will talk to you if they receive scary messages or videos.

To expose a chain letter or video as nonsense, it helps to search for it online. There is information on almost every phenomenon here. Explain to your child what a false report is and how they can deal with it. And last but not least, to avoid wasting any more energy on the unwanted message, simply delete it from your smartphone and do not forward it – also to protect other children. Please note that care should be taken when warning other parents or families so as not to inadvertently spread the phenomenon or videos unnecessarily. It is best to make it clear immediately that it is a deliberate hoax if this is the case.

What you can also do: Block the contact together with your child and report the content to the operators of the platform or to the relevant reporting offices.

The first own e-mail address – tips for a secure e-mail traffic

E-mails are commonplace for adults and many children and young people already use them regularly. A personal e-mail address is often required to log in to game sites and learning platforms, for example. Especially during the coronavirus lockdown, schools have increasingly sent information and tasks by email. We have a few tips for safe e-mailing for your child.

Unsolicited emails and dangers

Most e-mail providers are not specifically aimed at children and young people. Their inboxes are often equipped with many functions that are difficult for younger users to understand. There are also dangers such as spam, phishing and chain letters that children and young people need to be familiarized with.

Spam refers to unsolicited e-mails that contain advertising. They are sent by people or algorithms automatically and without prompting. The same applies to phishing emails that aim to defraud the recipient, for example through fake competitions or false invoices. Some of these emails also contain malicious links or files that can infect your computer.

Some of the unsolicited e-mails also contain content that is not suitable for children, such as pornography. This may be due to the fact that the e-mail address was used for chats or games when registering. Such services protect the personal data of their users to varying degrees, allowing strangers to contact children without their consent. This can be particularly overwhelming for children and young people who may not yet have developed strategies to deal with such risks.

Tips for parents

Before you set up an e-mail address for your child, you should think together about what it will be used for. Children under the age of 13 are not yet allowed to use many services (according to the General Terms and Conditions and Data Protection Act). Many schools offer their own e-mail addresses for school purposes, which must meet certain security standards. Explain to your child that such an address may only be used for school purposes. Among other things, such e-mail addresses (e.g. lena.meier@schule-am-hasengraben.de) can reveal specific information about your child. This can be risky if the address falls into the wrong hands.

Even with “private” email addresses, for example for social media, it is important that your child uses an imaginary name and that the email address cannot be traced back to them. Make it clear to your child that the e-mail address should not be passed on carelessly. It is best to use a secure e-mail provider.

Also explain to your child what spam is and how to deal with it. In many programs, spam messages can be marked so that they are automatically sorted out. If the sender of an e-mail is unknown, you and your child should be careful. It is best to delete such messages immediately and do not click on links or file attachments.

If your child is old enough to log on to social media or other services, do it together. Make sure that the e-mail address is not displayed publicly. Switch off information e-mails from the provider. Otherwise, the mailbox can quickly become overcrowded and it will be difficult for your child to distinguish between spam and important messages.

E-mail programs for children

Especially for younger children it is recommended to use a suitable e-mail program. Mail providers especially for children have only the most important functions and guarantee certain protective measures:

  • With Mail4Kidz and Kidsmail24, young users only receive emails from people who are already listed in their own so-called friend book.
  • With ZUM-Grundschulpost, parents or guardians even receive messages from strangers and can then decide whether they are trustworthy.

The child-friendly programs all have spam and virus protection. This will prevent your child from receiving unwanted advertising or chain letters in the first place. However, ZUM ‘s internal search is linked to Google, which is why adult search results may also appear.

Some of the programs are free of charge(Mail4Kidz for the first six months) and are particularly suitable for children under the age of 15. Kidsmail24 users have the option of switching to an unrestricted account once they reach the age of 14. Despite child-friendly programs, your child is never protected from all risks on the net. As a parent, you should therefore talk to your child regularly about their contacts on the Internet and give your child the security of knowing that they can turn to you if they have any problems.

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