Even children have the right to participate. They must be given the opportunity to voice their opinion and have a say in the decision-making process. There are many ways to do this in the digital world.
Children have their own way of looking at the world and different needs than adults. In order for them to grow up in an environment that is suitable for them, they must be able to have a say in all matters that concern them, in accordance with their age. This is also stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children need to be able to learn what interests them – at school, in family conversations, or on the Internet. Then they can express what they think and what they would like to change.
However, children are often not taken seriously or are not even listened to. But you would like to participate!
Participation works best for children when it takes place in their immediate environment: in the family, the daycare center, the school, the playground around the corner… or on the Internet!
An important basis for forming an opinion is understandable, i.e. child-friendly, information, e.g. news for children. With children’s search engines, such as Blinde Kuh or fragFINN, children can independently research the topics that interest them and are important to them. If children want to learn about politics and their rights, they can do so at HanisauLand, for example. There are comics, an encyclopedia, games and tips for books or movies. Children should also be able to find out about their rights, such as at the Children’s Ministry: here, children’s rights are presented with colorful pictures and explanations and videos read out by children. On the join-in website Kindersache.de, children can find out and exchange information about children’s rights as well as leisure and political topics.
Participation means even more than being informed and being able to form an opinion. Children should also be able to participate directly in decisions online. The Internet in particular offers them a wide range of opportunities to make a difference and help shape the future. Through the app #stadtsache, children (and young people) can draw attention to places in their neighborhood that they like, that annoy them, or that they would like to improve. With photos, videos or sound recordings, they can point out to adults, for example, a broken playground or a corner where there is always a lot of trash. There is also a questionnaire on the website that children can fill out to rate their city.
If your child would like to get involved beyond offerings on the web, you can use the German Children’s Fund ‘s Children’s Policy Map for offerings in your area. There you can also search for specific offers on “Politics with/for children”.
Democracy and participation start in the family. Let your child have as much say as possible. Young children can also be introduced and practice co-decision-making in the family. For example, when it comes to media use in the family, you can set up rules together. A media usage agreement helps with this. Wherever your child is concerned, he or she should be allowed to have a say.
If a say in the matter is not possible because your child does not yet appreciate the consequences of a decision and it might harm him or her, however, you should explain exactly why you are deciding for your child.
Make your child aware of sites on the web where he or she can get information and participate. Even though children can be relatively independent on the relevant sites, you should still accompany your child if possible. Talk about topics it has seen on children’s news or picked up elsewhere. If your child has a say in the family, he or she will be motivated to advocate for his or her own interests outside of it.