Sharing children’s photos online, chatting in Minecraft or setting up the first smartphone – in everyday family life with media, there are many points of contact with the topic of privacy. But what exactly does privacy mean? And what can parents do to adequately protect their child’s privacy on the Internet? That’s what this article is about.
When we talk about privacy, we mean the personal space in a person’s life. That’s the part that’s around us where we can do things privately. In the realm of privacy, we can live our lives the way we want without it being anyone else’s business.
While we protect ourselves from prying eyes at home with curtains, there are other things we need to watch out for in the digital world. Maintaining privacy on the Internet specifically means protecting personal information and activities online. This includes personal data such as name, age, address and other private details. This starts even before birth with the sharing of ultrasound pictures, continues with the use of baby monitor apps and ends with smart toys in the nursery. As soon as your child is consciously on the Internet, you should discuss the topic of privacy on the Internet with him or her and explain to your child how to handle private information and online activities prudently. Make it clear to your child that he or she should not share personal details with strangers. Educate your child about scamming online. Make them aware of how they can recognize subscription traps, fake sweepstakes and the like in order to prevent the criminal misuse of their own data.
By the time they move on to secondary school at the latest, many children receive their first smartphone of their own. Depending on which phone your child has (Apple or Android), there are ways to set certain settings for apps to protect privacy:
In today’s connected world, it is very important to protect your child’s privacy, especially when using social media platforms:
Solutions for technical youth media protection such as parental control programs or the accompanied mode on TikTok are one way to increase your child’s safety when using media. However, they do not replace your responsible role in media education. An open conversation between you as parents and your child about what they are experiencing online is very important to help them navigate the web safely and responsibly.
A life without Benjamin Blümchen, My Friend Connie and the Grüffelo is unthinkable, especially for younger children. You probably remember your own favorite cassettes or radio play CDs from your childhood. As a modern variant of the classic listening media, there are nowadays so-called listening boxes. But what exactly can Tonie, Tigerbox and Co. actually do?
Listening boxes, also called music boxes, are available from various suppliers. Depending on the manufacturer, the prices differ, but are mostly under 100, – €. When you buy a box, stories are often included. However, if you want more audio stories or songs for your child, there may be subsequent costs.
The boxes all work on a similar principle: they are child-friendly and usually designed like a cube. Above all, they are easy to use. Colorful pens or figurines in the form of animals that you plug into the audio box, or connect via Bluetooth, can play all kinds of stories. You can also get creative yourself and record (your own) stories.
Listening boxes are specially designed to meet the needs and motor skills of younger children and are designed not to break quickly. The few functions are easy to perform, so your child can operate the box independently. Selecting and starting stories themselves, pausing, stopping or exchanging them as needed – the young users can do all this on their own. Children as young as about two years old can operate the devices intuitively. This can boost your child’s self-confidence.
Some boxes offer the possibility to set a time limit. This will help your child stick to agreed upon listening times.
Audio boxes can be used to play audio games and music, whether for entertainment or to learn new things. If the stories are stored on animal figures or similar, these figures can also be used as toys.
Find out about the different listening boxes to decide which one is right for your child. What is the right shape? Are the stories stored on some kind of USB stick or does the box always have to be connected to the Internet? How much do new stories cost?
Research what age the stories you want to listen to with the box are appropriate for. Since your child can also use the listening box on his or her own, an age-appropriate selection is especially important. Also inquire about the data protection of the respective box: What private data is collected? How is the personal information of the users protected?
An audio box does not replace the togetherness of your own reading aloud: Regularly take the time to read to your child from their favorite book or listen to the audio stories from the box together.
For parents, it is a challenge to keep track of the huge range on offer on TV and streaming platforms: Movies and TV shows, series, non-fictional formats such as reports and documentaries, casting, stunt and game shows, erotic offerings, music videos and docu-soaps or coaching programs. Which media content is age-appropriate for my child, which is unsuitable and which should I protect my child from? An initial orientation for age-appropriate programs is provided by the age ratings and the associated broadcast times – they are often based on a rating by Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Fernsehen e.V. (FSF).
The FSF is a non-profit, legally recognized association that supports private television broadcasters, telemedia providers and streaming services in implementing youth protection regulations in Germany. To this end, the FSF offers content review by independent experts who set age ratings and broadcast times, identify objectionable content, and recommend cuts if necessary.
The basis for the audit is the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV), which regulates the protection of minors from unsuitable media content. The aim is to protect children and young people from content that is harmful to their development, e.g. drastic depictions of violence, excessively frightening scenes or questionable role models. This content is rated with the ability of different age groups in mind and given a clearance of 6, 12, 16 or 18. In media libraries or streaming services, these age indicators are displayed; on TV, they are associated with specific broadcast times:
The age ratings are also stored by many providers as technical identifiers that can be recognized by youth protection programs. More information is available here on the FSF website.
The FSF reviews content of all genres, especially series, documentaries and films shown on television or online platforms. But commercials and program trailers, music videos, show formats, docu-soaps or reportage and news programs can also be relevant to youth protection and submitted for review.
The FSF reviews content submitted by TV broadcasters or streaming service providers upon request. The evaluation takes place in examination committees with three or five independent examiners. They come from different disciplines such as media education, psychology, media science or law. A program is screened and possible risks are discussed. The decision for the appropriate age rating is made by simple majority. More information on program review can be found on the FSF website.
The key risk areas are violence, fear and disorientation. Essential for the evaluation is the context.
In the case of depictions of violence, for example, the question is whether the violence appears positive overall and could thus increase children’s and young people’s willingness to engage in violence and conflict: Is the depicted violence more likely to be endorsed or rejected? Is it presented as something fascinating? Does it seem more artificial or realistic? Is it exercised by the villain or the hero or heroine? And is it successful in the end?
Similar questions arise in the case of the effect risk of disorientation, e.g. in the case of representations of prejudices or role clichés, of drug abuse or of risky behavior: Do problematic behaviors appear attractive and worthy of imitation or are they critically commented on or rejected?
Risks of excessive anxiety come into consideration especially in the lower age groups. Younger children often cannot adequately process moments of shock or images of violence or injury or separate themselves from stressful issues such as parental separation.
The extent to which media content is likely to trigger fears or negatively influence the values of children and young people depends on the ability of the respective age group to cope with stressful scenes and to classify and question problematic statements. More information on impact risks is available on the FSF website.
Age ratings and broadcast times are a guide, but should not be the sole basis for media selection. Each child develops individually and has different needs and levels of maturity. Therefore, use other information to assess whether a content is suitable for your child and fits his or her personal situation. Age ratings are not recommendations!
Accompany your child’s media use. Talk to him about his media experiences and help him understand and classify media content. The FSF’s assessments can help you make informed, age-appropriate choices.
Parents can contact the FSF Complaints Office with comments and complaints about TV or streaming content. In justified cases, an audit will be initiated.
Whether in the cinema, on DVDs, when streaming series or watching TV – children, young people and parents frequently encounter the FSK age labels in their everyday media lives. Find out what’s behind the FSK ratings, how the ratings can help parents choose appropriate movies and protect young people from potentially inappropriate content in this article.
The FSK stands for “Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry.” It is a German institution concerned with the age rating of cinematic content on all distribution channels such as cinema, DVD/Blu-ray and streaming.
The FSK’s task is to classify and label movies and videos in an age-appropriate manner. In doing so, they examine the entire content and the portrayal of problematic aspects such as violence and sexuality. The labeling with an age rating takes the form of colored symbols such as “from 0” or “from 6”. The symbols can be found, for example, on packaging such as the DVD case or on movie posters.
The FSK ratings are based on the German Youth Protection Act (JuSchG). It contains legal provisions to protect children and young people from inappropriate content. The FSK is not a state institution, but a self-regulatory body of the film industry, which in Germany is supported by various interest groups under the umbrella of the umbrella organization of the film industry. However, state representatives are directly involved in the audits.
The FSK evaluates various media in the film and entertainment industry when a review is requested, in particular
Not all media are rated by the FSK. Computer games are checked by the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK), while the Voluntary Self-Regulation Body for Television (FSF e.V.) is (also) responsible for television content and streaming services.
The age restrictions serve to protect minors in Germany and are based on the media competence attributed to different age groups of children and young people. Volunteer examiners from all over Germany work at the FSK. They come from different professional fields, e.g. journalism, media studies, education and justice.
The committee examinations take place at the FSK in Wiesbaden. After viewing the films and videos together, they discuss and vote on the age rating. The basis for the rating is the Youth Protection Act and the principles of the FSK. Consideration is given to plot, dialogue, character portrayal, visuals, specific themes such as violence and sexuality, and music.
Alternatively, after training, applicants can have their content rated using the FSK classification tool. The final decision on the test result is then made by the state representatives at the FSC. More information on the testing procedures can be found in the FSC’s principles and on the FSC website.
The following indications and problem areas have particular relevance for the respective release:
Since 2023, the FSK has been implementing a new provision in the German Protection of Minors Act and adding additional information to the known age ratings. These so-called “descriptors” are intended to explain the main reasons for the release and thus offer families more guidance when selecting films and series. More information can be found on the FSC website.
The FSK’s age ratings serve to protect minors, ensuring that children and young people are not adversely affected by content that is unsuitable for them. The releases are binding, which means, for example: films from the age of 12 may only be viewed by younger children in the cinema when accompanied by an adult.
The state does not determine what movies children can watch at home. Parents can also make media accessible to their children that are not approved for their age. In doing so, they must not neglect their duty to educate:
The Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) is the voluntary self-regulation body of the games industry. It is responsible for age rating reviews of digital games in Germany.
The USK is recognized as a competent self-regulator under both the German Federal Youth Protection Act and the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media. In the area of the German Youth Protection Act, state representatives issue the statutory age ratings at the end of a USK procedure on the recommendation of independent youth protection experts.
In addition, the USK assigns age ratings within the international IARC system (International Age Rating Coalition) for online games and apps. In addition, the USK supports companies from the games industry in complying with and further developing the protection of minors in the gaming sector, for example in the area of technical protection of minors, and is involved in the area of media education, among other things with initiatives such as the Elternguide.online.
The games applied for USK testing are played through completely by trained volunteer reviewers and then presented to a testing panel that is independent of the games industry. The review panel consists of four youth protection experts and one permanent representative of the supreme state youth authorities (OLJB). The youth protection experts come from academia, media education, church institutions and youth facilities, and have experience in working with media and with children and young people. After extensive discussion, the youth protection experts recommend an age rating. The OLJB Permanent Representative may adopt or appeal this age release. Subsequently, the USK receives the test result and communicates it to the applicants. If they also do not appeal, triggering a new review, the game will receive the legal age rating by the OLJB’s Permanent Representation to the USK.
In the online area, the USK assigns age ratings within the framework of the international system IARC (International Age Rating Coalition). This is an association of the various organizations responsible for age rating worldwide, such as ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) in the USA, PEGI (Pan European Game Information) in Europe, ClassInd (Classificação Indicativa) in Brazil, GRAC (Game Rating and Administration Committee) in South Korea, ACB (Australian Classification Board) in Australia and the USK in Germany. At IARC, online game and app providers go through a questionnaire on content relevant to youth protection. An age rating is then issued from the respective entries according to the specifications and criteria of the respective national self-regulation (for Germany, the USK). In all distribution platforms connected to this system, age ratings from the USK are thus available. Connected systems include the Google Playstore, Nintendo eShop, Xbox Store, Sony Playstation Store, and Oculus Store.
There are set criteria for the age rating of digital games. These guiding criteria are decided and adapted by the USK’s advisory board, which is made up of various social groups. The guiding criteria serve as a basis for review panels in assessing the risks of possible developmental impairment to children and adolescents when playing games that are not age-appropriate. They provide support in the decision-making process.
The focus is on the presumption of impact, i.e. the extent to which young people’s development could be impaired or even endangered. These include criteria such as the atmosphere in the game, violence or pressure to act. Since 2023, so-called “usage risks”, for example functions such as chats, in-game purchases or location sharing, have also been taken into account in the youth protection review and can have an influence on the age rating. More information about the USK’s guiding criteria can be found on the USK’s website.
The age rating symbols awarded include USK 0 (released without age restriction), USK 6, USK 12, USK 16 and USK 18 (no youth rating).
Since January 2023, the USK’s age rating labels have included additional information about the reasons for the age rating as well as existing online functions in the game. In this way, parents can see at a glance which reasons led to the age rating (for example, “comic book violence” or “pressure to act”) and which risks should be kept in mind when using media (for example, “chats”, “in-game purchases” or “location sharing”). The notices can be found on the back of the game packaging, on the corresponding online platforms and in the USK title database.
In principle, the state does not regulate with its age labels how and what media content parents make available to their children at home. However, parents should only give or allow their children to play games that have an appropriate age rating. However, the labels do not provide any information about the difficulty level of a game or its respective pedagogical suitability. An educational assessment on digital games is provided, for example, by the NRW Game Guide, which is funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Three tips for parents from the USK:
A “treasure chest for audio play experiences” – that’s how the provider itself describes its Toniebox. As a contemporary alternative to cassette recorders and CD players, listening boxes can already be found in many children’s rooms. Why is the colorful box so popular and how exactly does it actually work?
Square, practical and easy to use – that’s how you can describe the Toniebox. This is a monochrome cube that can be used to play audio books by simply placing various figures on it. The play figures, called Tonies, are available in two versions. The Tonies in the design of well-known children’s characters can be used immediately. Countless contents can be played via them. The Kreativ-Tonie, in turn, can be recorded with your own recordings via an app.
The padded cube can be easily operated by children themselves: A chapter can be jumped forward by a slap on the left side. Fast forward and rewind by tilting the box slightly. On each box there are also two rubber ears, through which the volume is adjusted.
Before the Toniebox can be used for the first time, you have to set it up. A WLAN connection is required for this. You also need a smartphone, tablet or PC. To set up the box, you create a free customer account in the Toniecloud. Once the Toniebox is set up, you can put the character on the box and play it.
The Toniebox impresses above all with its simple design and easy operation, making it easy for children to use on their own. In addition, many different characters are available for both the general Tonies and the Creative Tonies: Benjamin Blümchen, The Mouse, Knight or Rockstar – depending on the child’s preference. The range of different stories and content available for the Toniebox also impresses many parents. Once the audio stories are fully loaded in the cloud, they can be listened to anywhere even without WLAN.
According to the company, the Toniebox is made of high-quality and robust material, which is why children can use it without any problems. But the box should also be easy for parents to operate: For example, the maximum volume can also be controlled via the Toniecloud. The Toniebox is suitable for children from the age of three.
If you use the option of a creative Tonie, your own sound recordings are stored in the Toniecloud. However, these can also be deleted again. When closing the entire Toniecloud customer account, all uploaded data is also deleted.
The cost factor of the Toniebox is not entirely insignificant: the starter set with one creative Tonie currently costs €79.95, and each additional Tonie (€14.99) or creative Tonie (€11.99) must be purchased separately. However, compared to the hörbert listening box, it is a cheaper alternative.
The creative tonies offer a lot of space for creativity. Why not record a story or song together with your child? Very creative people can also produce their own radio play and listen to it together later. As parents, you should always keep in mind that it is the shared media experience that counts and that you should especially accompany young children in their first media-related steps.
Lovely animations, child-friendly illustrations and interactive content: There are a variety of learning and creative apps that have been specially developed for toddlers to support them in their development. We present a few apps for toddlers.
Children are fundamentally curious and learn through active trial and error. Learning and creative apps can support this natural learning process and promote cognitive and creative development. For example, there are apps that teach the alphabet or quantities, or let you solve puzzles and riddles. Children can also draw in apps, create their own artwork or tell stories. The playful design makes the learning process fun and can motivate children to express themselves or develop further.
You and your child can get apps in a number of ways. But it’s not easy to find the right product from the almost endless list of apps. For your search we recommend the DJI database, Seitenstark, SIN – Studio im Netz or the Spieleratgeber NRW.
This selection of apps is particularly suitable for getting started – for example, for two- to five-year-olds. Whether an app is really suitable for your child is individual and you know best. The apps all contain no advertising or in-app purchases. What else makes a good app for kids, we describe in this article.
The app for the show with the elephant offers, in addition to shows and laughs and factual stories, numerous games such as painting, puzzles, programming, dodging obstacles, hiding and rubbing a treasure chest free in pairs. With the help of the elephant alarm clock, the duration of the game time can be set.[iOS/Android/Amazon, Free]
As a firefighter, get to know the everyday life of the fire department. Your child experiences firefighting operations in the app and learns in a playful way how to behave correctly in the event of a fire. The self-explanatory and predominantly wordless tasks should be emphasized, which even young children can master perfectly.[iOS/Android, free of charge]
The app is based on the children’s series and offers children’s movies and music to sing along to, as well as some learning games such as a dress-up game, a flower chorus, cookie dominoes, a packing game, frog hopping or an ant rally. Again, no reading skills are required.[iOS/Android, free]
Discover his island together with Fiete the sailor: sort apples into a basket, mount tires on a car or crack eggs into the pan. The interactive picture book app can be controlled by simple and intuitive tapping and swiping motions. The soundscape and animations are also calm and unagitated. [iOS/Android, €3.99]
Select vehicles, hear their names and discover their characteristics. There are three types of games to get to know the vehicles: a puzzle, a spinning game, and a patience game with different difficulty levels. It should be emphasized that the app does not have a reward system.[iOS, €1.99]
Paint and compose – at the same time. To do this, select a motif, a color palette and you can paint colorful pictures and make music with colors and shapes. An overall picture is created from lines, waves and circles. The app promotes the perception of the connection between sound, color and form.[iOS, €2.99]
A read-aloud story in rhyme about a snail in search of itself. On her journey, she meets many animals. The calm and appealing design of the app stands out from many modern apps.[iOS, €1.99]
Shapes and colors, sound recognition, reading and writing the alphabet, numbers and math basics: the app offers several learning games based on the Montessori teaching method. Preschool at home, quasi.[iOS/Android, free of charge, exception: with in-app purchases]
Storybooks and phonics games, tracing letters and practicing writing, math facts and number games. In addition to educational games, the app also offers children’s songs and yoga videos to sing and dance along to – all in English.[iOS/Android/Amazon, Free]
Take time to review apps before providing them to your child. Read reviews from other parents and check if the app is from trusted developers or educational institutions.
Look for age-appropriate content and features. It is important that the app takes into account your child’s developmental level and provides appropriate challenges.
Use the apps as an opportunity for joint activities with your child. Accompany it, ask questions, encourage it to tell or discuss the content. Also, make sure that your child cannot access other apps.
Set rules for screen time– together, depending on age. And pay attention to how your child reacts to using the apps. When showing signs of frustration, overwhelm, or dependency, it is important to reduce screen time and provide alternative activities.
Your own behavior serves as a role model for your child. Try to set an example of a balanced approach to digital media yourself and not let screen time dominate family life excessively.
It is not necessary to have a large number of apps. Rather, focus on a few high-quality apps that match your child’s needs and interests.
“Is our baby doing well?” – this question occupies many parents not only during pregnancy. Especially in the early days, they often feel the need to be there for the child around the clock and to have everything under control. For this, many parents are turning to technology and apps to monitor their babies and toddlers.
Baby monitors are part of the basic equipment of most families with small children. If the child is sleeping in another room, adults can hear via loudspeaker and/or video image if the child becomes restless, wakes up or cries. If you don’t want to purchase your own device for this purpose, need a longer range, or want to use one spontaneously while on the go, you can use baby monitor apps. With a smartphone or tablet, a device that offers all the necessary functions is always at hand: Microphone, speaker, camera and telephone or Internet connection.
There is a wide range of baby monitor apps to choose from. There are three types of apps:
We dedicate this article to the first two types of apps. Baby monitor apps feature a variety of functions, some of which are indispensable, others not. It should be possible to adjust the noise sensitivity so that the alarm does not go off with every gust of wind. A live video function and the night light allow visual verification of whether parental intervention is really required. Some apps provide information about the battery level of the baby device. Features like having lullabies played or talking to the baby can make it easier for some children to fall back asleep. Some apps log children’s sleep quality.
Compared to traditional baby monitors, baby monitor apps are significantly cheaper. There are free apps and many apps under five euros. Because they do not use radio, the ranges of baby monitor apps are much greater. However, the radiation exposure via WLAN or mobile network is significantly higher than via radio. WLAN and mobile networks are susceptible to interference, and seamless monitoring is hardly possible with fluctuating Internet connections. While the batteries and rechargeable batteries of baby monitors last a very long time, smartphones and tablets are quickly drained by the app constantly running in the background. Apps that record a child’s sleep pattern collect sensitive data.
If you want to use a baby monitor app:
What baby monitor apps don’t offer parents: the certainty that their child is still alive. The fear of diagnoses such as sudden infant death syndrome drives many mothers and fathers.
Respiratory monitoring systems sound an alarm if the child stops breathing for an extended period of time. Sensor wristbands, smart socks, sensor mats and clip-on sensors measure vital functions such as chest movements, oxygen levels, body temperature and heart rate of babies and toddlers while they sleep. The data is permanently transmitted via Bluetooth or WLAN to an app that warns parents when limit values are exceeded. The child’s vital signs are stored and can be shared with others.
Many sensor systems are combined with video and noise monitoring conventional baby monitors.
Monitoring systems with sensors can help parents reduce anxiety about diagnoses such as sudden infant death syndrome and help them rest at night.
Sensor mats are only suitable for healthy babies who sleep alone in bed. Children with health problems are professionally monitored medically. However, among the sensor systems, there is only one product that has medical approval. The clip-on sensor is not connected to a mobile device, but triggers a vibrating alarm to wake the child. If it is not awake, an alarm goes off, which can be heard via a baby monitor.
Do not rely solely on breath monitoring technologies, as they are fundamentally prone to failure. Frequent false alarms can unsettle parents and literally rob them of sleep.
In order for your child to sleep safely, you should pay attention to the entire sleep environment. Appropriate room temperature and safe bed and clothing design are important factors. Information on safe baby sleep is provided by the Federal Center for Health Education on its website kindergesundheit-info.de.
The best breathing monitoring won’t help if you, as a parent, don’t know what to do in an emergency. Take a baby and toddler first aid course and have the appropriate emergency numbers handy.
Children are growing up in a world full of media and technology. Every day they come into contact with different devices and media content. The bedroom is perhaps one of the few places not yet entirely affected by this. Sensor systems for breathing monitoring and baby monitor apps are constantly sending data, exposing young children to constant radiation. When using apps in conjunction with vital signs, there is the question of how to handle your child’s sensitive data. Babies and young children also have the right to privacy, which must be protected. Avoid sharing your child’s information with others via messenger or social media.
Carefully consider whether technologies and apps to monitor your child offer more benefits than costs.
Kids photos are great! They show without big words how colorful, funny, exciting and chaotic everyday life with children can be. Thanks to smartphones, beautiful moments can be captured easily and quickly and shared with family and friends. In a few seconds the cute snapshot of the baby with the first porridge on his face is over Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp shared
What parents find cute and share with the world can have quite unpleasant consequences for children (later). Even if you as a parent like all the photos of your child, put yourself in your child’s shoes! You probably don’t like yourself in every photo either. From the point of view of children’s rights, photos of children on the Internet are questionable, because too often they are posted without their consent. Just like adults, children have a right to privacy (Art. 16, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the right to their own image, and thus the freedom to decide for themselves in principle what and how much they reveal about themselves.
Do not underestimate the fact that information and images are quickly spread on the net and can be found easily and for an unlimited period of time. Although a photo is deleted from the profile or blog, the shots may continue to circulate. Others can copy, alter and redistribute them. Children’s images can be misused for pedophile purposes or unflattering images can increase the risk of cyberbullying. It is therefore all the more important that you, as adults, deal consciously and considerately with your child’s personal rights on the Internet.
No, it doesn’t have to mean that! Children are part of our society and therefore they should be visible – also in the digital world. The decisive factor is how children are portrayed: In which situations can you see your child in the photo? Can you see the face clearly? Who can see photos when you post them? If you follow a few rules, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a child’s photo while preserving your child’s privacy rights. Not to be forgotten is the child’s right to participation (Art. 12, UN CRC), which is why it is important to involve children in an age-appropriate way and obtain their consent. We have summarized specific guidance on publishing children’s photos by age group. In the links below you will find the appropriate text for your child’s age.
“Mom, can I watch video?”, “I want to play tablet, Dad!” – media fascinate young children and are part of their everyday life from an early age. In the first years of life, parents lay the foundation for dealing with media. Media education is based on the general values in the family.
Babies and toddlers are not yet very interested in media. They seek contact with their parents and explore the world with all their senses. Developmental steps such as learning to eat, walk and talk are the focus. As parents frequently turn to media, such as the smartphone, young children gradually become interested in them as well.
Targeted media use, such as looking at a picture book or video calling grandma and grandpa, usually takes place with young children in the company of adults. More and more, children are demanding this kind of media time together.
In addition to looking at picture books together, toddlers enjoy music and audio stories; they can play or relax along the way. Offerings such as children’s radio programs and audio boxes are suitable for children and a good introduction to the diversity of the media world.
The child’s brain cannot yet process moving images and hectic sounds well. Children are not able to understand filmed stories until they are about three years old. Nevertheless, your child may already be watching series on the tablet or similar together with older children. Pay attention to what your child is looking at. It is best if you are present, can answer questions that arise, or overhear when your child becomes anxious. Children of kindergarten age enthusiastically watch shows with their favorite characters such as Peppa Wutz, Bobo the Dormouse or Fireman Sam. With child-friendly apps and games, children can get active themselves. Such apps are manageable, encourage creativity and can help with learning.
Whether it’s audio, video, or games, choose short, simple, and age-appropriate content. Young children should use media alone as little as possible, because they are not babysitters. If you and your child already know certain content, he or she can listen to an audio story on their own and watch an episode of their favorite show without you sitting next to them.
“Can I use your cell phone?” – Children learn by observing and imitating what their caregivers do. You are also the most important role model for your child when it comes to media use. Put the smartphone aside when playing with your child. Enjoy time with your child and take time outs from the screen. Model a conscious and reflective approach to media. Even children already have personal rights. Ask your child if he or she is okay with sending photos of him or her via Messenger and, if possible, do not post children’s photos online.
“That was too scary for me!” – Children often still have difficulty distinguishing between fiction and reality and cannot yet reliably assess dangers. Some media content is unsuitable for children.
“Just one more episode!” – Children in the first years of life cannot yet control their media use themselves; they need limits.
Based on a long-term study by the JFF – Institute for Media Education on the importance of digital media in families with young children, there is now a flyer on the topic of media education in the first years of life.
You may have heard about the concerns about WhatsApp and other messenger services. Signal wants to be a safe alternative and offers almost the same features.
Signal allows you and your children to chat with one contact or a whole group. You can send pictures, audio files, videos, text messages and emojis, make voice calls or video calls and publish stories.
Signal advertises itself as a secure messenger. Unlike other messenger services, group conversations are also end-to-end encrypted. Individual privacy settingsin the app can be used to turn read notifications and “disappearing messages” on or off, among other things. At regular intervals, users are prompted to enter their PIN to ensure secure use. Signal requests access to the address book so that other users can be added as Signal contacts. However, contacts can also be entered manually without accessing the smartphone’s address book. Since Messenger is open source, anyone can view the encryption procedures. Many experts have already reviewed them.
More and more young people are aware that WhatsApp and the Messenger from Facebook offer little data security and are looking for alternatives. Signal is sometimes used as an additional messenger alongside the more frequently used apps.
Some dangers do not relate to the use of a specific messenger, but are related to communication via messenger in general: Cyberbullying and sexting cannot be ruled out via Signal either. However, Signal offers increased security for private data.
According to the provider, contact data is anonymized by Signal, matched on Signal servers and then deleted again.
According to the provider, the minimum age for use is 13. The USK gives a recommendation from 0 years, but the app stores also state a minimum age of 12 years.
As with other messenger services, the main thing you should do as parents is to raise awareness about responsible use. Draw attention to the potential dangers of communicating via messenger services and address the advantages of Signal and other, secure messengers (e. g. B. also Threema). When you use the app for family sharing, you send an important message. It is helpful to exchange ideas with other parents and decide together whether Signal should be used by the children and young people.
A look at the latest stories shows: once again, Jasmin’s mom has shared photos of her little daughter on Instagram. Yesterday it was funny close-ups of eating ice cream, today a long series of photos of swimming at the beach. Do you have to? When other parents deal with media differently, it’s sometimes hard to bear. You may have thought about how to approach other parents about this.
It’s worth talking to other parents about their media use. Often both sides learn during the exchange! Keep it all about you and use “I” messages. “I noticed that you like to share kids’ photos online. Personally, I only show my kids from behind on the web. What do you think about that?”. A good conversation can develop from an open-ended question.
Always remain polite and respectful, get straight to the point and make concrete suggestions. “I found exciting tips on creative children’s photos on the web, you might be interested in them.”. Use related links to give other parents access to information, such as to elternguide.online. If your counterpart shows interest, you will conduct an exchange at eye level on this basis.
Not all parents are aware that sharing sensitive children’s photos on the Internet can be problematic. Children have a right to privacy and should be involved in what images of them are seen on the Internet according to their age. If you sensitively approach photo-savvy parents about this, you’ll help protect children’s rights.
This also applies to other topics. “Which computer games are suitable for which age? What happens to my child’s data on the web? How do I set devices and apps to be child-safe? Which reports are real and how do I recognize fake news?”. The world of media is large, confusing and constantly changing. Parents have many questions and can not know everything. Especially when it comes to media use in the family, feedback from other parents can be important and sharing experiences can be helpful.
Whether it’s gambling with your girlfriend or movie night with your buddies – if children from different families use media together, parents should discuss it. You can share ideas about media education and consider together what arrangements you would like to make for the media experience together. Negotiating something like this can be a pain in the ass. But conflicts about other rules in other families can be avoided so well. Feel free to involve the children in this process and make your decisions transparent.
Other families, other customs. Who uses which media when and for what purpose is regulated individually in each family. Most parents act in good faith when it comes to media education. If the goal is to draw attention to the protection of children, helpful criticism is in order. If it is more a matter of different parenting methods or preferences, you should show tolerance. Because everyone uses media in their own personal way.
They are called Lady Bug, Fireman Sam, Elsa or Peppa Wutz – popular media heroes among young children. They appear not only on screens and in books, but also on backpacks, water bottles, clothing and other objects. But as much as they sometimes annoy adults, these figures have important functions for children.
Do you remember Pippi Longstocking, Pumuckl or Peter Lustig? Surely you have mostly positive memories of these characters. Even if the media heroes of children today are different, they fulfill the same functions as the characters of your childhood. They offer children orientation in a complex world and they can learn from them. Children identify with individual characters. They also provide a sense of belonging among peers. With friends, they can share stories about the latest episode of Paw Patrol and role-play scenes. When children are sad or worried, the main character can encourage them or an episode of their favorite show can relax them.
Typically, children’s media heroes and heroines have similarities to them. Her stories tie in with children’s lives. Often these are “good” main characters with characteristics that children can easily recognize. The figures do not have to please adults. This is especially the case when they are portrayed in a clichéd way, such as beautiful princesses and strong knights.
As children develop, their favorite media characters change. Children understand more and their interests change.
It’s not always easy for adults to understand what kids love about a particular character. However, banning them or keeping a child away from them is not the way to go. Children encounter some characters through play and interaction with their peers. Therefore, talk to your child about what he likes about a figure. Be unbiased and ask neutral questions. If your child is a little older, you can also tell and explain if they don’t like something about a character.
FSK, USK, PEGI, FSF and FSM – these are all abbreviations for youth media protection institutions, so-called self-regulatory bodies. Their logos and age rating can be found on DVDs, in app stores, next to content listings on streaming services or in the TV guide. But what exactly is behind it?
In Germany, the protection of minors is legally regulated by the Youth Protection Act and the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media. Among other things, this stipulates that media and their content must not endanger the development of children and young people, e.g. by depicting violence or other criminal acts. Age limits have been set according to which media content is classified – depending on what can be seen in it. For this purpose, many media are officially tested. It must be marked whether a movie, series, or game is rated for ages 0, 6, 12, 16, or 18. When games are tested, for example, they are first played through in their entirety and then presented to a panel of youth protection experts. After that, a decision is made on what age rating a game should receive, taking into account many criteria.
Different bodies are responsible for media testing in Germany. Each industry has its own so-called self-regulatory body:
On the European level, there is still PEGI (Pan European Games Information) for the labeling of games. Often these appear in addition to USK labels. PEGI partly uses different age ratings than in Germany and additionally gives hints about the content of the games.
The age ratings are a measure for the protection of minors. The aim is not to impair the development of children and young people, for example by depicting violence or sexual acts. The age ratings are binding. An 18+ game may not be sold to younger people, and movies that are 12+ may not be viewed in theaters by younger children without an adult accompanying them.
Things are a little different within your own four walls: the state does not generally regulate what media content your child is allowed to watch at home. Parents are allowed to make media content available to their children that is not approved for their age. However, the duty to educate must not be violated in the process. You need to assess how your child handles certain content and whether he or she can process it. The age ratings provide a good orientation! FSK, USK and FSF ratings do not indicate whether children already understand the content and whether it is recommended for a certain age from an educational point of view. However, the individual justifications of classified films, series and games can be read on the websites of the self-regulatory bodies. In addition, you should look at educational recommendations. For games, we recommend the Spielatgeber NRW and spielbar.de, and for movies, series and TV programs, the FLIMMO offering.
In the media and especially on the Internet, children and young people quickly come across problematic content that is not suitable for their age. They also sometimes spend so much time with media that they hardly do anything else.
Some therefore believe that children’s use of media should be severely limited or, in some cases, banned altogether. But does this make sense to protect children from harmful influences of media?
Media are as diverse as what can be seen, read and heard in them. The effects that media (content) has on people also differ greatly. The fact that children and young people are also very different means that we cannot speak of a general influence that media have on young people. For example, some children are more comfortable with violence in video games and movies than others.
Children and young people are not simply influenced from the outside. They actively engage with media or their favorite content and talk about it with friends. Young people also become producers of media content themselves and often even critically assess what they experience in their dealings with the media. Nevertheless, they need guidance in their media use.
On the Internet, young people repeatedly experience situations that overwhelm them and that they cannot handle alone. Some also spend a lot of time using digital media, which can then have a negative impact on their health. Some supposed experts have therefore been calling for a long time for media access for children to be banned or at least very severely restricted.
However, it is the case that young people come into contact with unpleasant content despite bans. For example, on the mobile devices of their friends. They are also often very adept at circumventing parental control settings, for example by providing a false year of birth.
Instead of banning the use of media, it makes more sense to teach children and young people how to use them. After all, it is only through exposure to the media that children and young people can develop important skills that they will also need later on in their everyday lives. As parents, you can support your children in this together with other people involved in media education.
Much media content is unsuitable for children and should not be accessible to them. It is important that your child uses age-appropriate media and is only allowed to navigate the Internet independently after a certain age, even though every child deals with media influences differently. Certain restrictions and fixed rules in the family are therefore necessary. However, it is just as important to explain and negotiate these restrictions and rules with each other. Complete media bans without justifications make little sense and may even increase the incentive to engage with this banned media (content). Instead, try to trust your child and give them space. You will not help your child achieve media literacy by banning all media, but by accompanying your child’s media use. To do this, always stay in communication with your child and with other parents.