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Search engines for children and teenagers

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

Children’s search engines – what is it?

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

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

What are the search engines?

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

What should parents pay attention to?

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

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

Can’t find an answer to your question? Our messenger service directly on your smartphone

In order to provide you as parents with the best possible support for your child’s media education, we offer you the opportunity to ask your personal questions about your child’s media use directly and conveniently via WhatsApp or Threema to ask us.

Our professional team is at your side to offer you the right support. Whether you are unsure whether a certain app is suitable for your child, you are looking for tips on limiting screen time or you would like support in dealing with a new trend – we are here for you.

Our messenger service is easy to access:

  • WhatsApp: Add our number +49 176 / 550 506 99 to your contacts and send us your questions directly via the app.
  • Threema: For more secure communication, you can reach us there at +49 176 / 550 506 99 with the ID FSSABPY8.

Please note our conditions of participation.

Why should you use our messenger service?

Individual advice: We understand that every family is unique. Our team of experts will give you personalized tips tailored to your questions about media education.

Support in challenging situations: Be it dealing with cyberbullying, inappropriate content or the right time to introduce new media. Our team specializes in supporting you even in difficult situations.

Note: In acute problem situations or emergencies, please contact specialized experts directly, e.g. the Nummer gegen Kummer (www.nummergegenkummer.de) or the Telefonseelsorge (365 days a year, available around the clock: www.telefonseelsorge.de).

Direct access to experts: Our team keeps up to date with the latest developments – in a way that is probably not possible for you as a parent in the constantly evolving media world. You can easily reach us via Messenger.

Quick answers: Send us your question and we will answer you as quickly as possible with helpful information and tips. You will receive answers from the editorial team during normal business hours, i.e. not at weekends, on public holidays or at night.

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Free advice: Like all our services, our Messenger service is free of charge.

Popular games: Fortnite

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

In a nutshell:

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

What is Fortnite?

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

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

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

What does Fortnite currently offer?

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

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

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

What fascinates children and young people about this offer?

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

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

What is problematic about the offer?

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

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

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

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

What should parents pay attention to?

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

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

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

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

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

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has long since found its way into our everyday lives. Where flying cars and robots were once seen as symbols of AI, the reality today is more diverse, but no less fascinating. We take a look at where we already encounter artificial intelligence in everyday life and what significance this has for media education.

Artificial intelligence – what is it anyway?

Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is a very broad term that describes machines or computer systems that can imitate human intelligence. To do this, they are fed information until they can apply it independently to solve tasks. This also means that they can learn from mistakes and thus constantly improve. For example, if a computer is fed a very large number of photos of human faces, at some point it will be able to tell for sure whether or not a photo has a human face in it. In this case, it is a so-called “weak AI” because it is intelligent only in relation to a specific subject. Research is also being conducted on a “strong AI” that could have the intellectual capabilities of a human, e.g., think logically or plan ahead. However, the strong AI does not yet exist. And if it should exist one day – it will probably not have feelings and thus will be fundamentally different from us humans.

AI in everyday family life

The areas of application for AI in family life are diverse. Facial recognition technologies unlock smartphones, voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri fulfill our commands and streaming services such as Netflix suggest films that match our preferences. Algorithms also play a role in this. Toys(smart toys) can also actively interact with children with the help of AI. For example, an intelligent cuddly toy can search for a child’s questions on the Internet and read out the answers. Chatbots such as ChatGPT can provide support with school tasks.

AI risks

Artificial intelligence can make our lives easier in many situations. But there are also risks associated with the use of AI. For example, so-called deep fakes can be used to create deceptively real images or videos that support the spread of fake news. If AI is used at home, for example via a voice assistant or smart toys, it is also important to look at the manufacturer’s data protection measures and use existing security settings. If the data is not stored on the device itself, but in a cloud, there is a risk that third parties can access and misuse the data. There are also many legal questions for which there is no conclusive solution at the present time: For example, who should be liable in the future if a decision made by an AI causes damage? This is one reason why the use of self-driving cars, for example, is not yet readily possible.

Understanding AI through play

In order to promote a better understanding of AI, it is important that children and young people are familiarized with the concept at an early age. It is important that they understand what AI is and how it works. Younger children often find it difficult at first to distinguish between an object activated by AI and a real living being. Age-appropriate explanatory videos and articles are suitable for teaching children and young people about artificial intelligence. There are also games in which you can train an AI yourself and thus learn to understand how it works in a playful way.

We have put together a few offers for you:

What parents should pay attention

Open communication: Talk openly with your child about AI and explain how it is used in their everyday life. Encourage them to ask questions and take time to discuss any concerns.

Critical media literacy: Help your child develop a critical attitude towards the information they find online. Show them how to recognize false information and encourage them to check sources.

Data protection: Discuss the importance of data protection with your child and encourage them to handle personal data responsibly. Explain what information can and cannot be shared safely.

Self-determination: Encourage your child to decide for themselves which technologies they want to use. Help them to set their own boundaries and feel comfortable saying no when they feel uncomfortable.

Joint activities: Take the opportunity to play games or do activities together with your child that provide a better understanding of AI. Discuss how AI-based technologies work and let your child gain their own experience.

Everyone gets involved – involving caregivers in media education

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

Media education – not just a matter for parents

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

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

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

Regulating media use outside the home

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

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

Shaping education together – also when it comes to media

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

Protection of minors at the movies – what parents should know

Whether scary movies, funny comedies or exciting action films – experiencing movies on a big screen in the cinema is something special for children and young people. Children and young people should only watch films that are suitable for their age. That’s why there are age ratings and corresponding controls in cinemas. In this article, we explain what the protection of minors in cinemas looks like and which exceptions and special regulations apply.

The FSK age ratings in cinemas

Practically all cinema films are submitted to the Voluntary Self-Regulation Body of the Film Industry (FSK) for examination. The FSK issues the familiar age ratings from 0, 6, 12, 16 and 18 years in independent test procedures in accordance with the Youth Protection Act and in cooperation with the supreme state youth authorities. The approvals are not educational recommendations. They are intended to ensure that children and young people are not impaired and thus stand for a positive film experience. For parents, they offer guidance when choosing a movie.

Parental Guidance Regulation – Parental Guidance Cinema

Children and young people may only attend movie screenings if they have reached the appropriate age. One exception is the so-called Parental Guidance (PG) regulation. According to this regulation, children from the age of 6 can attend movies with an FSK rating from the age of 12 if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. This gives parents a special responsibility when going to the movies together and allows them to enjoy a movie experience with the whole family.

Parents do not have to be present themselves. You can assign parental responsibility to any adult:

  • Relatives: e.g. adult siblings, aunt or uncle, grandparents
  • Persons in a special relationship of trust: e.g. godmother or godfather, girlfriend or boyfriend, parents who are friends, neighbor,
  • Persons with a professional or regular educational mandate: e.g. teachers, trainers, educational specialists, group leaders.

In cases of doubt, cinema operators must verify the age of majority of the accompanying person and the parental authority on the basis of a written confirmation.

Perhaps you are wondering why this regulation does not also apply to the age ratings from 6 and 16 years? After all, the shared film experience of parents and children offers an ideal starting point for growing up well with media and promotes media literacy. However, it is not possible to consciously decide to go to the cinema with your child if he or she has not yet reached the relevant age group. Legislators are called upon to amend the provisions of the Youth Protection Act. Cinemas must not ignore this.

Further youth protection rules for cinema screenings

The Youth Protection Act also contains regulations on the times at which children and young people can attend a movie screening.

  • Children under the age of 6 may only enter the cinema if they are accompanied by their parents or a person with parental authority.
  • Children aged 6 to 11 may attend cinema screenings from the age of 12 if accompanied by their parents or a person with parental responsibility.
  • Children under the age of 14 may only enter the cinema if the performance ends before 8 p.m. or if they are accompanied by their parents or a person with parental authority.
  • Young people under the age of 16 may only enter the cinema if the performance ends before 10 p.m. or if they are accompanied by their parents or a person with parental authority.
  • Young people under the age of 18 may only enter the cinema if the performance ends before midnight or if they are accompanied by their parents or a person with parental authority.

What parents should pay attention

Find out about the FSK rating and the time of the movie you want to see before you go to the cinema. The reasons for the age rating are also important. The FSK offers explanatory statements and additional information on all current cinema films at www.fsk.de/kinostarts. If your child is between 6 and 11 years old, think carefully about whether you want to give your child access to a movie from the age of 12 with the help of parental guidance. Films aged 12 and over may contain exciting or action-packed elements, but no excessive violence or explicit depictions. Choose age-appropriate films for your child, taking into account their stage of development. Take note of educational recommendations on current movies such as FLIMMO. This is the best way to assess whether a movie is suitable for your child.

Game Master and co – creepy trends on the net

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

What or who is a game master?

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

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

Scary is very popular with children and young people

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

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

What parents should pay attention to

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

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

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

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

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

Unsolicited emails and dangers

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

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

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

Tips for parents

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

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

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

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

E-mail programs for children

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

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

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

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

Virtual parents’ evening on 3.6.2024 from 5 to 6 pm

Play, but safely! What parents should keep in mind when playing games (held in German)

The selection of digital games seems endless, and the applications are diverse: games can entertain, impart knowledge, promote specific skills, or even function as fitness trainers. But as with all media, it is important to use them responsibly. In this context, the age labels of the USK (the German Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body) are an important orientation aid for parents to find out whether a game is suitable for the respective age of the child or not. In addition, the license plates provide important information about whether a game has features such as “chats”, “in-game purchases” or “location sharing” that should be taken into account.

But how exactly are these age labels assigned? What factors are considered and what should parents generally keep in mind when dealing with games? These questions will be answered directly by an expert from the USK at the virtual parents’ evening organized by Elternguide.online. The event will be held in German.

Be there live and ask your questions to our expert – we will give answers and be available for exchange!
The virtual parents’ evening will take place as part of the nationwide Digital Day 2024.

Information and registration

Date: 03.06.2024 | Time: 5 to 6 pm

Speaker: Maurice Matthieu, Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK)

Moderation: FSM e.V.

Platform: The virtual parents’ evening is 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.
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Registration:

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    The first smartphone

    Chatting with friends, being active on social media, expressing themselves creatively – the smartphone opens up a new world for children. Many parents ask themselves: “When is my child old enough to have their own smartphone?”. This question is not easy to answer. This is because the child’s stage of development plays a key role in the decision.

    The right time for the first smartphone

    The change from elementary school to secondary school is a suitable time for many parents to purchase a smartphone. Many children have a long journey to school, which they often have to make alone. They can make contact quickly via a cell phone or smartphone. Constant availability should not be the main reason. For older children and teenagers in particular, the most important reason for having their own smartphone is to keep in touch with their friends. They want to be part of it and have a say when it comes to the latest apps and social media trends.

    A checklist helps with the decision

    Are you wondering whether your child is ready for their own smartphone? Then you should think about these things:

    • Has my child had experience using someone else’s smartphone (e.g., mother, brother, or uncle) on occasion?
    • Does my child know that personal information exists and what it means?
    • Can my child understand that security settings and app permissions exist and what they are good for?
    • Can my child understand that a cell phone (may) incur costs, e.g., in-app purchases via games?
    • Does my child know that there are also rules online, e.g. when communicating in group chats?

    klicksafe has compiled these and other questions in a checklist for parents to tick off. Go through the checklist alone or together with your child. The more points you tick, the more ready your child is for their own smartphone. However, you know them best and can assess their media experience and sense of responsibility. For younger children, a cell phone without Internet access may be suitable at first. Sooner or later, however, you should allow your child to have their own smartphone.

    Surfing, posting and chatting – the challenges of smartphone use

    Access to the Internet holds a lot of potential for your child, but also risks:

    You can find out how you can protect your child from sexual violence on the Internet in this klicksafe brochure.

    Select and set up a device

    Choose your first smartphone carefully and take costs and features into account. A used cell phone can be a good choice. Take your time to set up your smartphone. Pay attention to age ratings of apps and enable security settings on the device. Discuss together which apps your child can and cannot use for the time being. A prepaid contract and not a flat rate may be sufficient at the beginning. This will teach your child how much they actually use their cell phone and how to use mobile data and WLAN appropriately. Settings in the smartphone can also create awareness of screen time. You can find more tips on how to make your child’s cell phone use safer in our article on this topic.

    Tips for safe use of the first smartphone

    Accompany your child as they take their first steps with their smartphone. Always inform your child about possible risks. Even before deciding to get your own smartphone, talk to your child about it. It can also be helpful to consult with other parents. Because most of the time, they face the same questions.

    Establish common rules for media use that all family members adhere to. Keep an eye on your child’s usage times and signs of digital stress.

    Find out about child-friendly offers and apps, such as the fragFINN app. You can find pedagogical assessments for mobile games at Spieleratgeber NRW.

    Try to lead by example. Don’t abuse your child’s trust by secretly checking the cell phone – a frank conversation is the better way. If you are unsure or serious problems arise, contact educational professionals such as school social workers or contact (online)counseling centers.

    Child-friendly information can help children get to grips with the topic. The “Genial digital” magazine from the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk (DKHW) provides children aged 8 to 11 with information about the internet and their first smartphone in a fun way.

    Games and business models – Games-as-a-Service put under the microscope

    The games industry is constantly evolving and creating new ideas to sell its products. One of these is the “Games-as-a-Service” business model. In this article, we explain the advantages and disadvantages of this form of game monetization and what you should bear in mind as a parent.

    Games-as-a-Service – individual games as a subscription

    Games-as-a-Service means “games as a service”. In the video game industry, the term describes a business model in which a product is not sold once, but is continuously developed and offered. In return, the games receive constant updates, new content and mechanics that should keep players excited for years to come. This also influences how the games are developed, marketed and played.

    Many Games-as-a-Service games are initially free of charge, but offer the option of purchasing cosmetic items such as particularly splendid weapons or elaborate clothing for a fee. Such items are often only offered for a limited time or subject to certain conditions. This means that players not only have to spend real money, but also play the game for a particularly long time within a specified period. One example of this is the Battle or Season Pass in popular games such as Fortnite .

    Another Games-as-a-Service approach is the well-known subscription model. Players take out a subscription to be able to use a single game. The entry costs of the games are often limited, as only the subscription costs are incurred. As a rule, these games cost 10-15 euros per month. Manufacturers primarily earn money with ongoing subscriptions. An old, but still very popular “subscription game” is World of Warcraft .

    What can be problematic about it

    Games-as-a-Service strongly bind players to a game or service. If you don’t pay, you either have to make up for it with longer playing times or you can’t unlock certain items in the first place. An expiring subscription may in turn mean that players will no longer be able to access the content.

    Caution: A subscription incurs ongoing costs. These add up over time. If the subscription for a game is 10 euros per month, the annual cost is 120 euros. If more than one game and/or service is then subscribed to, costs quickly arise that go well beyond the normal amount of pocket money.

    Another aspect of this business model is the so-called “sunk cost fallacy”. Canceling a subscription or switching to another game can be difficult, as it can feel like time and money already invested is being lost. This can lead to players feeling obliged to continue using the game in order to justify the costs already incurred. There can also be a fear of missing out(FOMO) if not every minute of the paid Battle or Season Pass is filled.

    What parents should pay attention

    The business model offers many advantages, such as a constant stream of new content, low entry costs and the flexible option of canceling the game at any time. At the same time, there are associated risks, such as an increased risk of excessive media use, the potentially growing cost of games and the fact that gamers can never truly own the game.

    • Talk to your child about the advantages and disadvantages of Games-as-a-Service. Assess together whether and how much your child actually wants to use the game.
    • Talk openly with your child about the issue of hidden costs and consider together how much money you can and want to spend on games.
    • Work together to find rules for healthy media consumption, such as binding agreements on playtime. A media usage contract, for example, can help here.
    • If you allow a game, pay attention to the protection of minors and use the technical setting options. Games often offer the option of setting up a children’s account in which age-inappropriate content can be hidden/removed or budgets can be set. Information on various games and services can be found on the website medien-kindersicher.de.
    • The “Games-as-a-Service” model is mainly used for online games. This can create communication risks for your child, for example through hate speech.

    Keep in mind that many “Games-as-a-Service” games are geared towards the multiplayer experience. They often serve as a virtual meeting place where common interests can be exchanged and friendships cultivated. Banning these games without proper communication and understanding of the importance of these social connections can strain the relationship of trust between parents and children. Have an open discussion with your child about the reasons for a possible ban and potential alternatives. This can help to accommodate your child’s social needs while keeping them safe and secure.

    How to make your child’s smartphone safer

    Many children get their own smartphone during their primary school years. With it, they can do different things and have access to the Internet. In addition to many great opportunities, however, it also exposes children to risks. It is particularly important that you talk to your child about possible dangers and make safety settings on the smartphone together.

    Privacy

    Without your child realizing it, he or she is leaving data trails by using a messenger and other apps, as well as by surfing the web. Explain to your child the various smartphone functions and how to set them sensibly: WLAN, Bluetooth and location should remain switched off by default and only be activated when absolutely necessary. For example, GPS is necessary if your child is looking for directions to a specific location using a map app. Check the app permissions in the settings together with your child. For example, you can avoid apps accessing the camera without reason or sharing data with other devices and networks. Educate your child about online scams, such as spam emails or phishing. Additional security is provided by virus scanner apps that can protect against unwanted viruses and dangers such as data theft, subscription traps or fake offers.

    Password protection

    It is important to use codes and passwords to ensure secure use of the device and apps. Your child’s cell phone should only be used after entering a code (PIN, swipe code, etc.) to prevent strangers from accessing personal data. Set up secure password protection with your child. This also applies to registration with social media services and apps. Secure passwords consist of at least twelve characters and contain special characters and numbers in addition to letters. Depending on the device, your child’s fingerprint can also be used to unlock the device (e.g. Touch ID on iOS). Tips for creating secure passwords are available – e.g. at Handysektor. For younger children, it is recommended that at least one parent also knows the screen lock combination and password.

    Parental control settings on Android and iOS

    Security and parental control settings can be made on every smartphone in the settings. Detailed information on this can be found, among other things, in the article on technical youth media protection.

    On Android, you can block the installation of apps in the Play Store or set a password for installation or in-app purchases. To do this, activate the parental control settings. You can choose which apps your child can install without a password.

    iOS devices offer even more options in their own device settings. Under Screen Time you have the option to set restrictions and assign a separate code for them. You can then, for example, allow or block the use of certain apps and restrict in-app purchases with a password. Movies, music, apps and TV shows with a higher age rating can also be blocked automatically. iOS can automatically filter and hide web content in Safari and apps.

    Additional apps are also recommended:

    • JusProg is a state-approved youth protection program that is free of charge, data-saving and ad-free. The software filters Internet addresses and blocks non-age-appropriate websites. The individual settings allow you to adapt the level of protection to the age of your child.
    • For Android devices, there is also Salfeld, which is available for a fee and focuses on time limits and filters as well as the connection of parent and child devices.
    • With the Kids Place app, you can, for example, set a time limit for screen time, only allow the use of certain apps or block unsuitable websites.
    • The Google Family Link app also offers some ways to regulate your child’s cell phone use.

    Further tips for safe smartphone use

    To avoid cost traps, a tariff with a limited data volume can be useful. Make sure you also make certain settings for your child’s privacy and safety on social media apps and use Instagram safely, for example. Here you can specifically regulate the visibility of your child’s profile and the basic contact options. Some platforms offer a safer alternative mode for minors – e.g. the accompanied mode on TikTok.

    We also recommend installing the fragFINN app. This children’s search engine offers a protected surfing area with tested websites. This way you can ensure that your child can only access age-appropriate and safe content, both for school research and for leisure activities.

    For more information on safe smartphone settings, it’s worth visiting medien-kindersicher.de. Here you will find helpful, technical protection solutions for all your child’s devices, services and apps explained step by step.

    Also remember to carry out regular software updates on your child’s smartphone to close security gaps and minimize the risk of viruses, for example

    Accompaniment by the parents

    Smartphones come with some features to make chatting, surfing the web and using apps safer for your child. However, these settings on the device or parental control apps are no substitute for parental supervision. Your child should always understand why certain websites or apps should be blocked or why GPS tracking should remain deactivated. Also, always base your control and safety on your child’s age and development. Especially with teens, don’t intrude too much on your child’s privacy. However, always try to stay in conversation with your child and be there as a point of contact for questions or uncertainties.

    Information on elections and politics for children and young people

    In June 2024, elections to the European Parliament will be held in all EU member states. For the first time in Germany, young people aged 16 and over are allowed to vote. The topic of elections raises questions for many young people. Even children are often interested in political issues. However, voting systems in particular are a complex topic that is difficult to understand even for many adults. We have compiled a selection of high-quality online services that provide children and young people with age-appropriate answers to their questions about elections and politics.

    Information pages for children

    Kuppelkucker – the Bundestag explained for children

    Kuppelkucker is the children’s website of the German Bundestag. Current news from the Bundestag for children aged 5 to 12 is published here twice a week. Explanations of terms and institutions of the German government can be found in the lexicon. Quizzes such as the election quiz and explanatory videos such as this one on the Bundestag elections offer an interactive experience of the site.

    Logo! – Children’s news

    Logo!, the children’s news program of the public broadcaster, also devotes several contributions to the topic of elections and politics. An overview page explains various institutions in Germany, explains important terms and introduces individual parties. Logo! also offers articles about the EU and the European Parliament. The Logo! program is aimed at children between the ages of 8 and 12.

    SWR Kindernetz – Knowledge portal for children

    Südwestrundfunk regularly publishes child-friendly video and audio contributions on the SWR Kindernetz portal, supplemented by short knowledge articles. Here you can find some contributions on political topics such as women’s suffrage or the German constitution. Children can play an election quiz directly on the website.

    Sendung mit der Maus – the popular knowledge program

    Sendung mit der Maus has set up a special page on the subject of democracy and elections, on which various videos are available for children aged 5 and over.

    Checker Welt – reports suitable for children

    Presenter Checker Tobi from Checker Welt deals with the topic of democracy and the importance of elections in the report Democracy Check, which is aimed at an audience aged 6 and over.

    What is What – Non-fiction books for children

    The well-known Was ist Was book series is aimed at children aged 8 and over. A brochure on democracy and elections in the typical Was ist Was style is available for free download on the website.

    Geolino Special – the children’s podcast

    Geolino Spezial is a knowledge podcast for children. Episode 81 is all about elections.

    Information pages for young people

    Hanisauland – political education for young people

    The Hanisauland portal communicates political and social issues to children between the ages of 8 and 14 in a playful way. Knowledge articles and a lexicon explain important terms and topics. Children can post their own questions under the articles. The portal highlights special topics such as elections and the upcoming European elections. Children and young people can test what they have learned in the quiz on the topic of elections.

    Federal Agency for Civic Education – Politics, History, International Affairs

    The knowledge section of the Federal Agency for Civic Education provides answers to the most important questions about democracy and elections in the form of articles and booklets.

    U18.org – Portal for first-time voters

    “Who, how, what is Europe?” – these are the questions answered by the U18.org information page of the German Federal Youth Council. The focus here is on young people’s issues in politics, youth elections, events and political education.

    Youth portals – networking and information

    The European Youth Portal offers young people living, learning and working in Europe the opportunity to find out about opportunities and initiatives at EU level and in the individual countries. The German Bundestag’s mitmischen.de portal encourages young people to become politically or journalistically active themselves.

    Political education on social media

    Instagram channels for political education such as politikverstehen_ and nini_erklaert_politik make it easy and entertaining to understand what is currently being discussed in politics and society. On YouTube, influencers like LeFloid or networks like funk tackle social issues with factual accuracy and humor.

    What parents should pay attention

    When it comes to political education, parents are an important role model for children. Emphasize the importance of elections and encourage your child to stand up for values such as democracy and social justice. Give your child access to age-appropriate news and information sites and search engines and talk to them about political issues. Because by gaining a certain basic understanding of democracy and elections, your child learns why their own opinion and vote are important. Do not force your child to do this, but build on their existing interest.

    In connection with elections and democracy, disinformation and fake news are circulating on the internet and on social media platforms. Talk to your child about fake news online and explain to them how they can check news and content. HanisauLand or Team Timster offer programs for children and young people to educate them about fake news and the like.

    Youth under pressure – beauty ideals on the net

    Toned bodies on YouTube fitness channels, flawless beauty influencers on Instagram or perfectly staged selfies in WhatsApp chats– social media conveys a certain image of beauty that is often far removed from reality. Such ideals can put enormous pressure on children and young people and have a negative impact on their self-esteem. How can parents help their children develop a healthy approach to beauty images online?

    Images of beauty through the ages

    Pale skin in the Middle Ages, curvy bodies in the Baroque era, short hair in the 1920s, thin models in the 1990s – what is considered beautiful is subject to constant change and varies according to time and culture. Throughout history, women in particular have been strongly valued by their appearance. Today’s ideal of beauty is strongly influenced by gender stereotypes and social media trends.

    Children and young people in the orientation phase

    “Do I look beautiful?”. With the onset of puberty at the latest, children and adolescents are increasingly concerned with their appearance and identity. This time is often characterized by uncertainty and comparisons. Young people also look to the media for guidance. They keep a close eye on how people present themselves online. Influencers become important role models that they want to emulate. Many social media stars present themselves as particularly approachable on their profiles and encourage contact with their target group. The strong relationship with their idols can be an orientation aid in the development of their own body and beauty image, but can also lead to insecurity and pressure. This is because a lot of content shows highly distorted images of beauty.

    Insta vs. real life – beauty on the web

    Big eyes, full lips, white teeth, flawless skin – on platforms like Instagram and TikTok are dominated by one-sided images of beauty that are perfected with the use of filters and image editing, including the use of AI avatars. Added to this are the mechanisms of social media services, in which algorithms preferentially select images with naked skin and display content according to the characteristics and preferences of users. Influencers show more appearance than reality in order to earn money with clicks and product placements. Anyone who does not conform to the current ideal of beauty receives negative feedback and even hate comments. This increases the pressure on young users to meet unrealistic beauty standards. According to a study conducted by the Austrian education platform safer-internet.at in early 2024, beauty ideals on the internet put both girls and boys under a lot of pressure. More than half of the young people surveyed want to look beautiful, stylish and slim online. If children and young people are constantly comparing themselves and frequently use filters, this can have an impact on their self-perception. Pumping until you drop, starving yourself to the point of anorexia – some content even shows beauty ideals that are harmful to health, which can be dangerous if imitated.

    Fortunately, there are also counter-movements online such as curvy models, body positivity and hashtags like #formorerealityoninstagram. They help to make visible and celebrate a diversity of bodies and identities. Such authentic content encourages users to take a healthier and more realistic view of beauty and their bodies.

    How can parents deal with this?

    Show an interest in your child’s media use and keep in touch with your child about their favorite influencers and content. Analyze together which editing steps are behind many images and videos and explain to him that this is mostly about marketing. Make it clear to your child that their social media feed is not an accurate reflection of reality. Encourage your child to weed out profiles that trigger bad feelings. Give your child access to the good side of the internet and show them (children’s) media that portray diverse world views and gender images. Comedy profiles such as Celeste Barber or formats for children and young people such as this video on beauty filters by TeamTimster on KIKA help to question unrealistic ideals of beauty.

    Emphasize the diversity of bodies and images of beauty and encourage your child to be positive about their own body. Praise your child’s inner values, such as personality and interests, to strengthen their self-esteem. If you are unsure, your child is suffering from digital stress or an eating disorder, seek help, for example in the form of (digital) counseling services.

    Cloud gaming with Amazon Luna

    Amazon Luna is a cloud gaming service that brings games to various devices such as computers, smartphones or Fire TV. The platform offers a large selection of games, including many family-friendly titles.

    In short

    • Cloud gaming service for digital games
    • Can be used on many end devices such as televisions, computers and smartphones
    • Age ratings can be set in the account
    • Provider: Amazon
    • Subscription from 10 euros per month (as of March 2024)

    What is behind Amazon Luna?

    Amazon Luna is a cloud gaming service. This means that the games do not have to be downloaded. Similar to Netflix the games are streamed.

    Players must have a Luna+ subscription or an Amazon Prime account. You can then play games from the Luna library without having to buy them individually. However, the games do not belong to the subscribers. Anyone who cancels their subscription or Amazon Prime account will lose access to all games that were included. The same applies to games that Amazon removes from its range.

    Alternatively, the games can be purchased individually via the Amazon Luna website. A Ubisoft account is also required for this, as these games are only offered for sale by the video game company Ubisoft.

    What incentives does Amazon Luna offer?

    Gaming trends change quickly. A game that is still popular with children and young people can lose its appeal in just a few weeks. With the subscription, Amazon Luna offers the opportunity to react to such changes without having to keep buying new games.

    The Luna Couch function allows children and young people to play together with their friends. In Luna is the streaming platform popular with young people Twitch is integrated.

    Families save the high costs of purchasing a gaming PC or games console. Amazon Luna is available on Android and iOS smartphones, on some smart TVs and on computers with an internet browser.

    What does the provider say?

    Amazon Luna offers parental controls with a number of protective measures. In the “Parental control” tab in the settings, you can set a PIN for the account. In the settings, parents can specify that the PIN must be used to purchase games. The games that Amazon Luna offers are all rated by the USK and set to a specific age. Luna is one of the affiliated systems that participate in the IARC process. Parents can specify the age rating above which the PIN must be entered in order to start the game. More information about Amazon Luna parental controls can be found on the medien-kindersicher.de website.

    What is problematic about the offer?

    Cloud gaming requires an online constraint. The games cannot be downloaded and played offline, as the game data has to be transferred from a server. This can consume a lot of data volume.

    Online games can cause problems with the flow of the game due to the delay time to the server. Especially with action games (like Fall Guys ), sports games (like FIFA ) and shooters (like Fortnite ), it can be relevant to make decisions within fractions of a second. If your home Internet is not fast enough to implement these decisions, this can quickly lead to frustration.

    The aspect that subscribers do not own the games can also be difficult. If your child wants to play the game over and over again, this option is not safe in the long term. This is because Amazon can decide to remove the game from its range at any time.

    Amazon Luna ‘s parental controls are good in many respects, but there is still room for improvement in one area: you cannot limit your child’s playing time. To do this, they would have to use additional programs, such as the Salfeld app, which is available for Microsoft Windows and Android (up to Android version 14).

    What parents should pay attention

    Use the settings of the technical youth media protection of Amazon Luna and the devices on which your child plays. Talk to your child about play times and agree on rules. Involve your child so that they feel that their interests are taken seriously and represented.

    Talk openly with your child about the risks of online gaming. Encourage your child to come to you if they have seen or heard something while playing that makes them feel insecure. Talk to your child about how they can deal well with challenging content or risky contacts. Also note that the integrated streaming platform Twitch is included with Luna and can bring its own challenges.

    Does your child want to play a game that you don’t know? Find out about this in advance. Elternguide.online offers articles on many popular games. Observe the USK age ratings of the games and weigh up whether the game is suitable for your child depending on their stage of development. Educational recommendations for games can be found in the NRW games guide.

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