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Sleep, baby, sleep – baby monitor apps and sensor systems

“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 monitor apps

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:

  • 1. apps for a mobile device: the app monitors the baby and calls any phone number over the mobile network when needed.
  • 2. apps for two mobile devices: a parent unit (receiver) and a baby unit (transmitter) are connected via WLAN, Bluetooth or the mobile data network.
  • 3. apps in conjunction with a “real” baby monitor: the baby monitor device is connected via WLAN to an app via which the parents are informed.

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.

What should parents look for in baby monitor apps?

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:

  • Find out which apps offer which functions.
  • Read reviews and ratings.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of baby monitor devices versus baby monitor apps.
  • Use your child’s data sparingly.

Sensor systems for breath monitoring

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.

What should parents look for in sensor systems?

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.

Create shelters for babies and toddlers

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.

Children photos on the net

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

Cute, funny photos – often questionable from a child rights perspective

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.

But does that mean no one is allowed to post a child’s photo anymore?

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.

Tips for the dissemination of photos of babies and young children

Tips for sharing photos of children of (primary) school age

Media education in the first years of life 

“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.

Introduce young children to media slowly

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.

Suitable media for young children

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.

Being a role model from the start

“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.

Select age-appropriate content

“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.

  • Pay attention to the age ratings of movies, apps, and games. Be aware that age ratings by USK, FSK and co. serve to protect minors and are not pedagogical recommendations. What exactly is behind it, you will learn in this article.
  • Protect your child from harmful content and select age-appropriate offerings based on your child’s stage of development.
  • You can find recommendations for suitable films and videos on the Flimmo website, for example. The NRW Games Guide gives detailed background information on games and provides pedagogical advice.
  • Beware of in-app purchases and the like: Use the settings options of media offers and make your devices childproof.

Agree media rules in the family

“Just one more episode!” – Children in the first years of life cannot yet control their media use themselves; they need limits.

  • Use media deliberately and sparingly, and expand the range slowly. Pay attention to the screen time.
  • Share media as much as possible and observe how your child responds to it.
  • Introduce rules for dealing with media at an early age and make sure to follow them. A short clip to relax after kindergarten, a radio play to go to sleep – such rituals create orientation.
  • In special situations, such as long car rides or hospitalization, other rules may apply. That’s fine!
  • Show interest in your child’s media world. Talk to your child about what he or she has experienced and help him or her to classify media content correctly.
  • Get active together: draw something on the tablet, create funny photos and videos, or compose music with apps. Have fun with media together!

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.

Signal – Secure Messenger

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.

In a nutshell:

  • free and ad-free app for Android and iOS (as well as for desktop PC)
  • Registration via cell phone number
  • Chats, group chats, as well as encrypted voice calls and video telephony possible
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Age rating from 13 years
  • from the non-profit Signal Foundation

What is signal?

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.

What particularly fascinates young people about the offer?

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.

What is problematic about the offer?

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.

What does the provider think?

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.

What should parents pay attention to?

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.

Other parents – other rules

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.

Conversation at eye level

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.

Why exchange is important

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.

Media sharing rules

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.

Respect other parenting styles

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.

Children and their favorite media characters

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.

What media figures mean to 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.

What is typical for media figures

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.

What else is important

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.

Age ratings of media – Who is behind it?

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?

How does the protection of minors work?

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.

Who implements the protection of minors in Germany?

Different bodies are responsible for media testing in Germany. Each industry has its own so-called self-regulatory body:

  • The FSK (Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft – Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry) takes care of films produced for the cinema or released on DVD, BlueRay, etc.
  • The USK (Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body) deals with the age rating of computer games.
  • The FSF (Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Fernsehen e.V.) checks TV programs and TV-like content on the Internet.
  • The FSM (Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter e.V. – Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers) is a self-regulatory body for the online media sector and deals with the protection of minors from harmful media on the Internet.

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.

What should parents pay attention to?

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.

How can I protect my child from (problematic) media influences?

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?

What are media influences?

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.

Should media use be banned?

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.

Accompanying the use of media

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.

Media education: Who is actually responsible?

Parents, siblings, relatives, friends, educators: In everyday life, children and young people have to deal with many different people. But who among all these people is (co-)responsible for media education? Just you as parents? All educators? Or even the media themselves?

What is media education?

The first goal of media education is to help people deal with media in such a way that it does not harm them and that they have as positive an experience with media as possible. For the time being, this does not distinguish media education from other forms of media literacy promotion. The difference between this and media education for children, e.g. at school, is that media education is not always aimed at learning and also happens unconsciously. A good example of this is the role model function of parents. How much time you spend on the smartphone yourself or what you watch on TV together with your child all have an impact on your child’s media education. But much of it you decide unconsciously or spontaneously. In addition to these often rather unplanned forms of media education, there are also targeted and concrete measures, such as agreeing on common rules.

Stakeholders in media education

The older children get, the more different people have to deal with their upbringing. Parents and other family members are first in line of responsibility. However, media education is far too big a task and challenge to leave it to you as parents alone. In addition to various support and help offerings on the Internet and on site specifically for parents, such as parents’ evenings, there are various ways to approach media education together.
Media education also takes place in kindergartens and schools. Parents can get involved there in the parents’ council and, for example, contribute something to a media concept or a media development plan.

Education through media?

The media themselves and people and figures who make media and are seen in media can also be seen as actors in media education. Media providers should, for example, design their offerings in such a way that it is apparent for what age they are suitable. Youth protection institutions, such as the USK, are also responsible for supporting media education. People who can be seen in the media, such as influencers, also bear responsibility. They are a role model for many children and young people and can contribute to a healthy approach to media, but they don’t have to.

Joint monitoring of media use

You are not alone in media education. Many parents have similar problems and it is worth talking to each other and pointing each other to support services. In your family, they should agree on rules together that then apply to everyone. Good media education can also be helped by making it clear that what you do with media, perhaps unconsciously, has an influence on your children’s media use: for example, what media are available at home or how much time you spend with media yourself. However, you obviously can’t work with all the players who have an influence on your child’s media education. See that you co-create media education with those where it is possible, such as other parents or in the KiTa or school, and which offer the support you need.

Being a role model from the start – how babies and toddlers learn to use media

You are reading a story to your child and suddenly the phone beeps to announce a new WhatsApp message. What do you do? Do you automatically reach for your smartphone or do you read the message later when the child is asleep?

Such situations probably exist in every family. When the little son then reaches for the smartphone, it is said: “That’s not for you yet!”.

Learning through observation

Be aware that parents and also other adults have an important role model function for children. Children experience how you, as their closest caregivers, deal with digital media and orient themselves to this. This is how children learn how the world works and how to behave in certain situations. Your behavior therefore has a major impact on how your child uses media themselves. By actively setting an example of what good media use can look like, you help your child learn to use smartphones and the like independently, sensibly and consciously.

Especially for younger children, parents are number one. It is especially important for babies and toddlers to recognize your attention through direct eye contact and to build a good bond. When dad is constantly looking at his smartphone, it’s not possible. Children, even at a young age, notice this. The older children get, the more they emulate you. In toddlerhood, they reach for daddy’s smartphone or speak into a brick that has a similar shape. They realize early on how important this device is for adults or older siblings.

Be a good role model

Create a good basis for a reflective approach to media right from the start. Keep the smartphone on silent in your pocket when you play with your child, so that they don’t get the impression that the smartphone is always more important. Later, your child may behave the same way. If it does get pulled out, explain to your child why.

There are certainly moments when the smartphone is needed to take a nice photo of your offspring. Capture beautiful moments with the camera! But think about how often that has to be. After all, your child would rather look you in the eye than constantly at the smartphone in front of your face.

Spending time together with media is also part of family life. Introduce your child to it slowly and choose age-appropriate content. However, such media experiences should always alternate with media-free times.

Through it all, be aware of your role as a role model!

Role model or bad example – how much time do I spend with media?

When we see young people on their smartphones, we quickly get the thought: They stare too much at their displays and don’t really talk to each other anymore!
But maybe you’ve caught yourself pulling your phone out of your pocket way too often and letting it distract you.

If it’s already so difficult for us adults to keep track of our media time, how will our children manage? You can support your child with our tips while also keeping an eye on your own media time. It’s not about banning media. After all, they make many things in our everyday lives easier and fun to use. But too much screen time can also be harmful, for example because you don’t get enough exercise. Read our article “How much media time is good for my child?”.

Rules for media time apply to the whole family

Agree together on rules about media times. One good thing, for example, is that no smartphones are allowed at meals together. Of course, this does not only apply to the children! Since they always look to adult role models, you should set a good example. In some families, there is a shelf where each family member has a compartment for their own smartphone. It can be placed there during mealtime.

Together with your child, think about which media are used in which situations and why. Is this always useful or could you do something else that is better for you instead? Create a weekly schedule for you and your child to record media times. Does this seem like too much compared to other activities? Then you can consider alternatives together.

Depending on their age, you should agree with your child how much time a day or a week they can spend with media. In doing so, distinguish what media is used for. If your child understands the rules, it will be easier for him to keep such times.

If your child is younger, you can use marbles to help per agreed media time. For example, a ten-year-old boy has seven hours of media time per week and receives a marble for every 30 minutes. When the time is used up, a corresponding number of marbles are put away. An hourglass that ticks down during media time can also be an orientation.

Control media time with apps

There are apps that allow you to measure and regulate your screen time. For example, they are called StayFocused (for Android, free of charge) or AppBlock (free of charge for Android; from August 2021 also for iOS), Forest (free for Android, with ads and in-app purchases, for iOS €2.29 with in-app purchases) or Space (basic version free for Android and iOS). They record the use of the smartphone. You can use them to disable certain apps or “paralyze” the whole smartphone for a certain time. Apps like Forest and Space are more playful in that a tree grows or a galaxy builds up by not using the phone.

Many of these apps are funded by advertising, which can be annoying. Also, some apps require you to enter a lot of data to track smartphone behavior. It is not clear for all of them whether the data is also used for other purposes.

Many devices also allow you to control your own screen time or “digital well-being” via theSettings”. You can see how long and what you spent your time on the smartphone. Timeouts can be scheduled or time limits can be set for certain apps. If you do not keep to this or if the time limit is reached, the corresponding note appears on the screen and the question whether you would like to add another 15 minutes, for example, or exceptionally select “No limit today”.

Even if these digital helpers can be easily deactivated, you can see how much time you spend with your smartphone and certain apps. This can help to rethink and change one’s own behavior with the smartphone. Perhaps you will turn it into a challenge together with your child!?

Age-appropriate media for my child

The range of movies, series, apps and so on is huge. For parents, it is often difficult to keep track and, above all, to choose the right one for their children. Because the point is that media content should be age-appropriate, entertaining and, best of all, educational.

What does age-appropriate mean?

The media your child uses should be appropriate for his or her developmental level. Every child must first learn how media works and that it is not necessarily a representation of reality. Depending on their age and stage of development, children deal with media in different ways. Media suitable for children are adapted to this. That’s why you should make sure that there is an age recommendation and an explanation of the content in descriptions. From this you can deduce whether the offer might suit your child. It also helps to ask other parents for recommendations and to look at the media yourself beforehand – without the child.

Verified media content

In descriptions of media offerings, whether apps, movies or games, there are sometimes different age ratings. A distinction must be made between recommendations and general terms and conditions and so-called age ratings. Specifications and approvals usually have a legal background. For example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stipulates that certain apps that were not developed for children and young people, such as WhatsApp and TikTok may be used from the age of 13 at the earliest.

In the description in the app stores, a different age statement often appears – namely the release by the Youth Media Protection. You probably know abbreviations like FSK or USK. The so-called self-controls of the film industry, games industry, etc. consider media according to the criteria of legal protection of minors and classify them accordingly. In each case, it is examined whether media content could be dangerous for the development and health of children and adolescents. It is about the depiction of violence, pornography and the like or whether children can be exposed to contact risks through the use of an offer. However, it is not tested whether a plot in a series and characters can already be understood by children of a certain age. Just because a Disney movie, for example, is rated “0 years old” doesn’t make it suitable for babies. He just doesn’t pose a risk. Age labels and technical protection measures are to be used to regulate access to the media for children. But this only works if you as parents also pay attention.

When it comes to selecting content, age recommendations made by (media) educational institutions, for example, will help you. We look to see whether the content corresponds to the lifeworld of the respective age group and whether it is understandable and appealing.

Suitable media offerings and guidance for parents

The same selection of media is not available for every age. Especially for children of daycare and elementary school age, the range is wide. Older children and adolescents often switch to adult offerings because there are few interesting series, films, etc. that are specially tailored to them. That’s where you should look closely and ask what your child is looking at or using.

We have some tips on where you can find good media outlets or get information:

  • At FLIMMO you can search for suitable shows, movies, etc. from TV channels and streaming providers.
  • Children’s search engines such as fragFINN and Blinde Kuh offer more safety while surfing, as only verified search results suitable for children are displayed.
  • On seitenstark.de parents can find a large collection of child-friendly websites.
  • We have listed children’s radio programs and podcasts in our article “There’s something for your ears“.
  • You can find out where to find news suitable for children and young people here.
  • The diverse content of funk appeals primarily to older young people and is also made by young people.
  • Handysektor provides information about media use and popular apps – specially prepared for young people.
  • The German Youth Institute presents tested apps for different age groups in an online database.
  • On the page of the player guide NRW there are detailed profiles of many computer games incl. Age Recommendation.

Do not blindly rely on recommendations! Because not every child develops equally fast or slowly. That’s why it’s important to follow your child closely from the start when he or she uses media. This allows you to assess how it reacts to certain content and the way media is made. However, it is not only your decision, but also your child has certain ideas and wishes, what he would like to watch on TV, play on the tablet or listen to with the audio box.

The new law for the protection of minors

Just as there are road traffic regulations that set out legal rules so that all pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and others can move as safely as possible in traffic, there are also laws for the media world. Children and young people are to be given special protection. This is what the so-called Youth Protection Act is for.

Children and young people in a digitalized world

The reformed version of the Protection of Minors ActThe German Media Protection Act (JuSchG) regulates, among other things, how media must be designed today so that children and young people are not exposed to any dangers when using them. Media providers must comply with this law, otherwise they face penalties. But that’s not so easy, because it’s a German law and the Internet knows no national borders. But if the providers of certain offerings are based in Germany, they have to follow these rules.

The most important regulations

Providers will be required to have default settings that protect children and young people in particular from interaction risks such as bullying, sexualized speech (“cybergrooming”), hate speech, tracking, and cost traps.

More and more apps therefore already have improved parental control settings, e.g. TikTok and Instagram . But it is difficult to implement certain protective measures because it is technically complicated to reliably query the actual age of the user.

The new regulation of the law now also provides for reliable uniform age labels for games and films used online. In addition, the classification is no longer based solely on content, but also on potential interaction risks such as cybergrooming and cost traps.

Previously, the familiar age ratings such as USK and FSK applied only to games and films available on so-called carrier media (such as CD-ROMs or video cassettes). Online providers were not required to provide age information until now.

Children and young people should be able to easily seek help and complain if they feel threatened or harassed while using media.

The new Federal Agency for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Media is to ensure that these regulations are actually enforced. Institutions such as the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter e.V. (Voluntary Self-Regulation of Multimedia Service Providers ) have set up online complaints offices that young media users, as well as adults, can turn to in order to report illegal content or content that is harmful to minors.

Orientation for parents

The renewal of the Youth Protection Act was important in order to adapt legal regulations to the media reality of children and young people. The law can be an important guide for you as a parent and offers protection to a certain extent – as long as providers comply with the obligations set out there. Unfortunately, it cannot be ensured that this is always the case. In addition, a frame does not fit each child individually. That is why you should accompany your child very closely in his or her media use, especially in the younger years. The older it gets, the more free space your child needs. Still, stay in the conversation about his media use. This is the only way you can help if, despite protective measures, it has unpleasant experiences on the net or does not understand something.

Workshop by Elternguide.online for professionals from parent media counseling

What questions about media education do parents ask professionals? Where do I get the right answers? How can I use the possibilities of an information portal like the Elternguide.online to support parents? What are current challenges in consulting work?

Online workshop

Questions like these are what the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter (FSM e. V.) and the JFF – Institut für Medienpädagogik in Forschung und Praxis (Institute for Media Education in Research and Practice) want to explore in an online workshop as part of the Elternguide.online project. This is designed to be interactive and provides space for participants to share their expertise.

Information and registration

Date: The workshop will be offered on two dates: on 07/06/2021 from 14-16:30 and on 17/06/2021 from 10am-12:30pm.
Target group: It is aimed at professionals in practical parent-media counseling.
Inquiries and registration: If you are interested in attending either workshop, please contact: Isgard Walla (FSM): walla@fsm.de
Platform: The workshops are realized via the tool “Zoom”.
Privacy Notice: Zoom is a service of Zoom Video Communications Inc. which is based in the USA. We use Zoom via the German operator easymeet24. easymeet24 ‘s server is located in Europe. Furthermore, within the Zoom service we have chosen the configurations with the highest data and security protection.
Please also take note of our privacy policy.

Microsoft Family Safety – Parental Controls for Android, Windows and the Xbox

Children who have their own smartphone or game console use apps, games and websites independently from an early age. Parents can quickly lose track of how much time their child spends online and what content they engage with. Various digital parental control offerings are designed to help parents make their children’s Internet use safer – Microsoft, for example, also offers parental controls for various devices.

In a nutshell:

  • Offer for digital parental control settings
  • free basic version (chargeable as Premium)
  • Available as an app or via the website
  • for devices with Microsoft 10, Android and the game console Xbox

What does Microsoft Family Safety offer?

Microsoft Family Safety can only be activated via a Microsoft account. The administrator account allows you as a parent to set different parental control settings on your child’s account, such as screen time and age-appropriate access to different content, apps, and so on. The settings then apply to all devices on which your child is logged in with the Microsoft account. All settings can be flexibly changed and adapted to the age of the child.

Screen time can be used to create fixed schedules for an entire account or for specific apps, games, and pages: For example, if you want to spend an hour on YouTube your child can use a total of one hour of YouTube on the smartphone, Xbox, and PC. Or enable an hour of game time for Xbox and block adult games and content.

You have the possibility to block pages and applications yourself or activate filters . Filters enable or block media content depending on the set age limit. It is also possible to specify that only child-friendly websites may be visited. This setting works only when using the Microsoft Edge browser. To access pages or apps, your child needs your permission first. Your child can also ask you for more screen time using the “Ask parent” feature. You will be informed about it by e-mail and you can react.

You can also set your child to need your approval even for purchases of, for example, games on Xbox. This gives you control over your child’s spending in the Microsoft Store.

What you should know about the offer

Each person needs their own Microsoft account. The parents’ accounts are linked to those of the children. This is necessary for protection across different devices such as game consoles or PCs, which can also be used by multiple users in parallel. It might happen that your child constantly sends you requests to share different content.

Some Microsoft Family Safety features rely heavily on the child’s control. For example, you can use regular activity reports to track how much time your child spends using which apps and games. Location tracking allows you to see where your child is right now. Family members can even share locations with each other and save places where they often stay. Even though the features are meant to help with safety, they also encroach on your child’s privacy and free space. Your child can activate or deactivate location monitoring and individual other control functions independently on their own device at Family Safety. As parents, you will be informed of this by message in each case.

The provider emphasizes not to forward the data of the users to third parties. Nevertheless, there is no absolute security, because data can unintentionally fall into the wrong hands, for example through data leaks.

This is what parents should pay attention to

You should therefore handle data such as the whereabouts or the exact activities of your child with sensitivity. Pay attention to what data is stored and how it is used. To determine the location, it is necessary to turn on the GPS function. This may allow other applications to unintentionally access your child’s location. Therefore, consider carefully whether it is necessary to activate this function. Talk to your child about it, too, so they don’t feel controlled.

Do not blindly trust the preset age limits of the filters, but check them. It can vary greatly what parents feel is appropriate for their child. You can read more about age restrictions for games here.

Parental control apps like Microsoft Family Safety can help improve your child’s safety when using media independently. But even more important is personal guidance from you as parents. Younger children especially need them. No parental control offers one hundred percent protection. Especially against risks such as digital violence, children cannot be adequately protected by such safeguards. This makes it all the more important to explain to your child why certain content and applications are not suitable and what you are concerned about. Agree on rules for media use together. A media usage agreement can also help here.

Especially with older children, privacy and digital independence is important and should be respected by you as parents. Avoid making your child feel like you are monitoring him or not trusting him. An open discussion atmosphere and the interest of parents are often more effective in protecting against certain risks on the net than simply controlling technical protective measures.

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