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Use Instagram safely

The social network Instagram continues to be very popular with children and young people, but is repeatedly criticized for not protecting them sufficiently. Instagram is working to improve security on the platform. The latest innovations:

  • By default, children and young people cannot receive direct messages from people they do not follow or with whom they are not connected – this also applies to other minors.
  • Parents must approve or reject changes to Instagram settings in Parental Controls, including security and privacy settings.
  • There are plans to introduce a new feature to protect children and young people from inappropriate images in messages. It is also intended to prevent minors from sending such images themselves in future.

Why were innovations necessary?

Minors were often unprotected on the platform, received inappropriate advertising, were tempted to use it extensively and could be contacted by strangers without restriction.

The legal situation in Germany has changed with the amendment of the German Youth Protection Act. Providers of social media platforms are now obliged to set up protective measures for minors. For example, there must be default settings so that strangers cannot simply contact minors. In addition, parents must be able to monitor and control their children.

What has already been adapted?

It is now more difficult to circumvent the age limit (use from the age of 13). Any person who Instagram wants to use must necessarily indicate their age, otherwise the account may be blocked. In addition, it is planned that accounts of minors will automatically be “private”. This means that young people decide for themselves who can see their profile. So far, this has been a voluntary option.

Protection from strangers: Minors can only be contacted by people or tagged in posts if they follow them themselves. If a stranger wants to follow minors, he/she will receive a warning. Posts by “suspicious” persons under the public posts of minors are now automatically invisible. It is also easier to delete your own posts, comments and other footprints.

The so-called parental control for Instagram has been in place since June 2022. Accounts of an adult can be linked to accounts of users under the age of 18. Both sides must agree and can end the parental supervision with a click. This makes it possible:

  • View usage times from the last week, set time limits or set breaks together with your child, for example during school or bedtime
  • A feature is planned that will remind young people at night that it is late and encourage them to close the app after spending more than 10 minutes on Reels or direct messages.
  • Weekly report: Who does your child follow, which new followers have been added
  • Children can inform parents if they report content to support while on duty. Parents can find out more about reporting or get expert advice in this section.
  • Not possible: Parents cannot read their children’s private messages or delete their account.

There is also a guide for parents with tips on how to deal with Instagram use, a list of suggestions for a conversation about use and a glossary of important terms.

What should you know about the new settings?

  • The true age of users cannot be determined with certainty. This means that a child can make themselves older and the security settings do not work. This problem exists on other social media platforms as well. In the future, artificial intelligence will help here, but this is still being tested.
  • There are no public guidelines as to when the behavior of adults on the platform is considered “suspicious” and comments are therefore no longer visible. The decision is therefore in the hands of the platform.

What do parents need to keep in mind?

  • Trust and dialog: If you as a parent gain insight into your child’s Instagram use, make sure you do not violate their privacy – because children and young people also have a right to this. Control doesn’t feel good for children and young people either. It is better to build a relationship of trust. Talk to your child about what he or she is doing on Instagram. Be open and interested!
  • Informing about risks: At the same time, you should also inform your child about possible dangers such as harmful content, hate speech, disinformation and manipulative content for political opinion making, war videos or fake videos. Communication risks ranging from cyberbullying to cybergrooming can also be addressed. Show your child which settings make the platform safer to use.
  • Support: Parental supervision can be a good way to support your child during their first time with the app. Support your child by setting up the account together and regularly discussing who is or will be subscribed. But this should happen in a constant exchange with each other. If your child sets their own account to private, you will no longer be able to see the postings.
  • Also ensure an appropriate service life.

Instagram has upgraded – but responsible use is still important. There are more tips for you as parents on how to talk to your child about safety, wellbeing and mental health on social media in the family section.

The age ratings of the Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Movie Industry (FSK) – this is what’s behind them

Whether in the cinema, on DVDs, when streaming series or watching TV – children, young people and parents frequently encounter the FSK age labels in their everyday media lives. Find out what’s behind the FSK ratings, how the ratings can help parents choose appropriate movies and protect young people from potentially inappropriate content in this article.

What is the FSK?

The FSK stands for “Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry.” It is a German institution concerned with the age rating of cinematic content on all distribution channels such as cinema, DVD/Blu-ray and streaming.

The FSK’s task is to classify and label movies and videos in an age-appropriate manner. In doing so, they examine the entire content and the portrayal of problematic aspects such as violence and sexuality. The labeling with an age rating takes the form of colored symbols such as “from 0” or “from 6”. The symbols can be found, for example, on packaging such as the DVD case or on movie posters.

The FSK ratings are based on the German Youth Protection Act (JuSchG). It contains legal provisions to protect children and young people from inappropriate content. The FSK is not a state institution, but a self-regulatory body of the film industry, which in Germany is supported by various interest groups under the umbrella of the umbrella organization of the film industry. However, state representatives are directly involved in the audits.

Which media does the FSK rate?

The FSK evaluates various media in the film and entertainment industry when a review is requested, in particular

  • Motion pictures,
  • Filme und Serien, die im Home-Entertainment-Bereich veröffentlicht werden,
  • Movie trailers and promotional clips for the cinema.

Not all media are rated by the FSK. Computer games are checked by the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK), while the Voluntary Self-Regulation Body for Television (FSF e.V.) is (also) responsible for television content and streaming services.

How does a rating come about?

The age restrictions serve to protect minors in Germany and are based on the media competence attributed to different age groups of children and young people. Volunteer examiners from all over Germany work at the FSK. They come from different professional fields, e.g. journalism, media studies, education and justice.

The committee examinations take place at the FSK in Wiesbaden. After viewing the films and videos together, they discuss and vote on the age rating. The basis for the rating is the Youth Protection Act and the principles of the FSK. Consideration is given to plot, dialogue, character portrayal, visuals, specific themes such as violence and sexuality, and music.

Alternatively, after training, applicants can have their content rated using the FSK classification tool. The final decision on the test result is then made by the state representatives at the FSC. More information on the testing procedures can be found in the FSC’s principles and on the FSC website.

What criteria does the FSK use to rate media?

The following indications and problem areas have particular relevance for the respective release:

  • Release age 0 and up: This content is safe for all ages. Positive heroes, humor and a quick resolution of problematic scenes make for a relaxing movie experience.
  • Release age 6 and up: Content is suitable for children 6 years and older. There may be slight tension or angst, but the film should end on a positive note and the characters should be clearly divided into good and evil.
  • Rated 12+: Children 12 years and older may view this content. There may be exciting or action-packed elements, but no excessive violence or explicit depictions.
  • Release age 16+: Teens 16 and older can watch these movies. This may contain stronger depictions of violence or sexual content. There should be no glorification of drugs and violence or excessive discrimination against groups in it.
  • Rated 18+: This content does not receive a youth rating and is intended for adult viewers only, as it may contain violence, sexuality or other incriminating scenes.

Since 2023, the FSK has been implementing a new provision in the German Protection of Minors Act and adding additional information to the known age ratings. These so-called “descriptors” are intended to explain the main reasons for the release and thus offer families more guidance when selecting films and series. More information can be found on the FSC website.

What should parents keep in mind in connection with FSK ratings?

The FSK’s age ratings serve to protect minors, ensuring that children and young people are not adversely affected by content that is unsuitable for them. The releases are binding, which means, for example: films from the age of 12 may only be viewed by younger children in the cinema when accompanied by an adult.

The state does not determine what movies children can watch at home. Parents can also make media accessible to their children that are not approved for their age. In doing so, they must not neglect their duty to educate:

  • Pay attention to the age ratings, because they offer a helpful orientation here!
  • Important: the FSK ratings are not educational recommendations. They do not indicate whether children already understand the content. Select age-appropriate media based on your child’s individual stage of development.
  • Check out the FSK’s website for information on the justifications for the ratings of films and series.
  • Consider educational recommendations, such as those from FLIMMO for movies, series, and television programs.

Game sites on the net – between fun, games and advertising

Digital games are a popular pastime among children and young people. People also like to play via the Internet. There are various game sites on the net where children can play, some for free and some for a fee. Beim Spiel allein oder im Team werden verschiedene Fähigkeiten gefördert, aber vor allem sogenannte Multiplayer-Spiele bergen auch Gefahren wie Mobbing.

Free sites with lots of advertising and questionable data protection

Many games portals that are particularly popular with children and young people, such as spielaffe.de, are financed by advertising. This is the only way they can offer the games for free. In return, children are confronted with many advertisements and links to external partners. Not every child is able to distinguish advertising from the actual content of the website and may thus unintentionally end up on other pages.

Play monkey is not made specifically for children. Not all games are suitable for every age of child, but still achievable. One problem here is that games that are offered online do not yet have to be provided with an age rating.

Younger children in particular are likely to be overwhelmed by the wide range of products and the many colorful pictures and buttons on spielaffe.de. The chat with other users is only possible after prior registration – but you can also play without registration. The section with information for parents and children on how to use the site safely is hard to find – at the very bottom left.

Even if Spielaffe does not collect data directly, data is collected and passed on via the integrated external pages, such as Facebook. The situation is similar at spielzwerg.de and spielkarussell.de. When registering, parents are not asked whether they agree that their children who are not yet of age can play here.

Many of the games offered on such portals also work with outdated gender stereotypes. There is often a category “girl games”, where you can find games about household or beauty. None of the three websites are displayed directly in a search with the fragFINN child search engine. Websites that are otherwise harmless for children can be found via fragFINN.

What you should pay attention to as a parent

Despite all the risks, children and young people like to use these sites – certainly also because of the large selection of games. Try to understand your child’s fascination with these sites and show interest without ignoring the dangers. Help your child recognize advertising and agree on rules for using such sites. Install ad blockers and check out what educators have to offer and what they think. Online services such as the initiative Gutes Aufwachsen mit Medien (Growing up well with media ) or the Seitenstark community offer help here. You can find pedagogically valuable offers via fragFINN, among others.

Reading in the age of social media

Books and TikTok – how do they fit together? Young people show that it can be done. TikTok has long been more than a platform for colorful dance videos: Young people also use it to find out about current topics – including hot books. There are also people on YouTube and Instagram who share stories about reading and their latest reads.

Of bookfluencers and booktokers

Reading books seems to be losing importance in the age of social media. However, Booktok’s trend proves that digital and analog media need not be mutually exclusive. Reading also still has its place in the world of young people.

The term Booktok is a combination of the English word for book and the second part of the name of the popular app TikTok. There, mainly female readers share book tips under the hashtag #booktok – far away from bespectacled older gentlemen talking high-toned about literature. The videos are entertaining and appeal to young users. The so-called booktokers particularly enjoy reading books from the romance, fantasy, crime/thriller, and young adult genres.

The Young Adult book genre tells stories about growing up and therefore appeals especially to teenagers and young adults.

Publishers and bookstores are now also on TikTok, cranking up their sales in popular genres. Certain books become trendy via Booktok and thus become bestsellers. Some bookstores have their own book tables where the most popular publications are presented.

Reading challenges are also launched. In doing so, TikTokers introduce books on a particular theme, cover, etc.

There is also a large book community on Instagram: Bookstagram. Users exchange more information on books here than on TikTok. In the comments, people talk together about current readings, create reading circles and start so-called buddyreads (joint reading rounds).

It probably all started on YouTube, where reading recommendations can also be found under the hashtag #booktube.

Apps support the hype

Special apps can help make book reading itself a challenge. How many pages have I read this week? How many books can I finish in a month? They are called GoodReads, Read-O, Bookstats or Booksup – apps that can be used to track one’s reading behavior. Statistics can be shared directly on social media in some cases.

Such apps can motivate people to read more. Through some, users network with each other and write their own reviews. You can read a particular book in a buddyread at the same time and exchange ideas about it. When installing the app, you should pay attention to what other users see and what data the app collects and possibly passes on to third parties.

What else is there to consider?

Publishers use social media and influencers for advertising just like other companies. Even though books and reading are usually seen as positive, you and your child should look closely at what book is being advertised. Not always the opinion of the booktoker and bookstagramer is honest and unbiased, advertising is not always marked. Finally, book purchases can also run into money. Therefore, you should talk with your child about what and how many books really need to buy. Is your child just interested in presenting the book in a video or is he or she really interested in reading?

Use your local library and borrow some books from there. Many libraries have digital access points through which e-books can also be borrowed. An e-reader is also available for check-out at the library.


The streaming portal RTL+ offers the opportunity to watch Mediengruppe RTL shows free of charge for seven days after they air – and some for longer than that. Premium members also have access to specially produced content and other functions. The free content is financed by advertising. Parents have the option to create a profile for their child so they can stream age-appropriate series, movies and shows ad-free.

In a nutshell:

  • Streaming offer of the Media Group RTL Germany
  • Content from TV programming and in-house productions
  • Usable with or without premium membership
  • Premium from €4.99 / month, Premium Duo from €7.99 / month
  • Creation of profiles with age restriction possible
  • suitable for children from 3 years

What does RTL+ offer?

RTL+ is the video-on-demand service of Mediengruppe RTL. Once an account has been created, the RTL+ Free package can be used to stream certain channels live or watch them seven days later. Premium members also have permanent access to broadcasts and other formats in the archive. Since 2019, the platform has offered films and series produced in-house, the RTL+ Originals. Paid premium membership opens up access to the mobile app, in-house productions and the ability to watch content before it airs on TV. The Premium Duo package additionally offers advertising freedom, parallel streams and some content in original English.

All registered users can create up to three profiles. These can be divided into adult and child profiles. Children only have access to the Family and Kids section via their own profile. This way, you can make sure that your child only has access to age-appropriate content. The formats in the Family and Kids sectionscan also be streamed commercial-free.

What fascinates children and young people about it?

The RTL+offering combinesthe TV programming of several channels and thus offers something for younger children and teenagers alike. Among the younger audience, the children’s channels Super RTL and Toggo are particularly popular. In addition to new productions, classics such asJanosch’sDream Hour, Fünf Freunde and Benjamin Blümchen are also broadcast there. Missed programs can be easily re-watched by the children through RTL+. You have also worked with RTL+ Kids their own area, where the formats are sorted into different categories and genres. This makes it easy for children to find their way around and make their own choices.

What do parents need to know?

If you register free of charge with RTL+ , you have the option of creating your own profile for your child, through which he or she can only watch age-appropriate formats. Premium members can also set up a parental control PIN that is valid for all profiles. You can define the age limit from which the PIN is to take effect.

Registered persons without membership cannot create a PIN, but have the option to install the independent and free youth protection program JusProg. You can find out whether programs and films are suitable for your child’s age and how he or she processes the content shown by using the Flimmo program guide.

In addition to the content you watch, keep an eye on how much time your child spends in front of the screen and with media overall. Therefore, arrange fixed times or specific shows that your child is allowed to watch. If you’re not sure how much time is appropriate, you can find more information and suggestions in our post on media time .

The Influencer Clothing Brand – Merch

Maybe somewhere in your closet you still have a T-shirt from your favorite band from your youth. Or you like to go to the soccer and therefore of course have the whole fan collection of your club – from scarf to jersey to bed linen. But nowadays not only sports clubs and musicians market such products, but also influencers. So-called merch from the idols is also exciting for children and teenagers.

What exactly is merch?

Merch is the short form of merchandise and the English term for marketing. Merchandise products range from trading cards, game pieces and key chains to T-shirts, jerseys and even costumes. The jersey of the favorite soccer team is often available in baby size, the Ninjago characters as trading cards and Princess Elsa also appears on lunch boxes and backpacks. From infancy merchandise is present.

The merch of the influencers

Many YouTubers and influencers also run their own merch store online. There are regularly new collections of T-shirts, hoodies and bags. This merch is rarely available in “normal” stores. Influencers draw attention to this in their videos, stories, etc. Many children and teenagers want to support their favorite influencers by buying such items. Through frequent advertising, they get the feeling that each new collection is something exclusive and rare.

This merch, just like that of bands and sports clubs, expresses belonging to a group. In addition, the influencer or musician stands for something specific, which is also transferred to the person wearing the corresponding T-shirts and sweaters with his or her merch.

Such merch is usually produced by other companies. These are not always high quality products. The prices for the things are often quite expensive, because you pay not only the sweater, but also the brand and the design. Learn more in the video from Pocket Money.

What to look for in influencer merch?

Before you comply with your child’s request for advertised clothing from a particular YouTuber, answer the following questions together:

  • What does the influencer stand for? Can I or my child stand behind it?
  • Is it just a short-term interest or has my child been excited about the influencer for a longer period of time?
  • Is the price for the merch reasonable and is the quality right?
  • Is there a secure payment option? Can the things be exchanged free of charge?

You should also make sure that you handle the payment. Never give your child your bank account or credit card information.

Allow your child to be a fan. It’s part of growing up, as you probably know from your own childhood and adolescence. When it comes to merch, however, be critical of whether everything needs to be purchased. Encourage your child to think about it, too.

Caution! In-App Purchases!

Many apps cost nothing. Only at a second glance can you see that you have to pay to be able to use such apps properly and with fun. For children and young people, such in-app purchases are a particular issue with game apps.

What are in-app purchases?

It’s not just when you install an app that costs can be incurred. Many apps even cost no money at first glance. But to use certain functions, you have to pay extra. This happens via so-called in-app purchases.

A few clicks can result in costs that are discovered on the next cell phone or credit card bill at the latest. Most of the time, these are rather small amounts of a few euros. But you don’t get an overview of how much you have spent on which functions and so it becomes more and more unnoticed. Another trick of the providers: At first glance, no real money has to be paid for the additional features, but instead there is a virtual currency. However, this must in turn be purchased using “real money” with a credit card or PayPal account.

Often, even within the free apps, there is advertising for a so-called “premium version”. This is the paid version of the same app, with more features. The free app acts as a kind of “test version” here. If this is liked, it is more likely to spend a few euros on the paid app.

In-app purchases as a danger for children and young people?

Kids and teens especially come into contact with in-app purchases in game apps such as Coin Master. Downloading the game is free of charge in order to attract as many users as possible. Children are particularly susceptible to in-app purchases because they want to progress quickly in the game and may compare notes with friends. Or they find it nice to customize their character, even though it’s not important to the gameplay. To do so, they have to purchase coins, game character equipment (also in the form of so-called lootboxes) or the unlocking of further levels for real money, for example.

The virtual currency appears very abstract to children and young people and has little to do with the pocket money (in coins and bills) they regularly receive from their parents. That’s why they don’t necessarily realize that they’re actually spending money – on virtual things that don’t bring them much.

Checklist: What should you pay attention to?

  1. In the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, each app indicates whether it contains in-app purchases. Pay attention to this and point it out to your child as well. Always read reviews before downloading an app. Because here you will already find references to possible experiences with cost traps within the game.
  2. Agree with your child to let them show you what they want to buy beforehand. Pay attention to whether it is a one-time purchase or a subscription. Teach your child to read all the information about the app carefully and not just click “next” quickly.
  3. With certain settings on the cell phone, in-app purchases can be restricted. On the iPhone or iPad, this is possible via the Screen Time function. For Android devices, go to “Settings” in the Play Store and enable the “Require authentication for purchases” feature. You can also use Family Media Library on Android devices or Family Sharing on Apple devices to basically have to confirm your child’s purchases beforehand and to share purchases within the family.
  4. To keep track of your child’s expenses, you can keep a list. This way you can see together how much pocket money is spent on apps per month. Another option is not to enter payment data in the app stores in the first place. This way, your child will only have access to free apps. This is a good precaution, especially for younger children, but they may contain advertising.
    It is important that you take your child’s needs seriously. If your child gets pocket money, he or she gets a say in what it should be spent on. Consult together to determine what costs make sense and how best to avoid excessive costs. Another way to control costs is to buy a credit card (e.g., as a gift) for the app store. However, be sure to make sure in the settings that the credit card is not used up further once the balance is empty.
  5. A slightly more radical, but effective way is the third-party provider block. Any in-app purchases can be blocked via this. To have this set up, contact your wireless carrier with an informal email or a simple phone call.

High costs have already been incurred. What now?

Sometimes purchases that have already been made can be recalled within a period of time, e.g. in the iTunes account (Apple) under the “Purchase overview”. It may also be worthwhile to contact the manufacturers should, for example, the purchase of a subscription not have been well marked. You can find out what else you can do if you or your child have accidentally fallen into a subscription trap at mobilsicher.

Kids on YouTube

YouTube is the largest video portal in the world. Although the platform can only be used officially from the age of 16, it is particularly popular with children and young people. For you as a parent, there are several ways to get your child on YouTube to protect

In a nutshell:

  • Minimum age 16 years, with parental permission from 13 years old.
  • YouTube Kids for younger users
  • free video portal with videos from private persons and commercial channels
  • personalized advertising
  • content not exclusively suitable for children

What is YouTube and what does it offer?

YouTube is the world’s largest platform for uploading and watching videos. It offers the possibility to watch numerous videos about different topics, comment on them and rate them. In addition to commercial channels, individuals also have the ability to quickly and easily post and publicly share videos on YouTube.

What fascinates children and young people about YouTube?

The content on offer is huge and ranges from makeup tutorials to music videos and Let’s Play videos. There is something for all interests and all ages. Videos by well-known YouTube stars, whose channels are often followed by several million people, are particularly popular with young people. While some are about beauty and fashion tips, others do comedy or document their gaming experience of a popular online game. Children and young people enjoy watching certain videos, participating in the lives of their idols, and talking about them.

Some formats, such as challenges, encourage users to participate. When children and young people see how quickly they can supposedly achieve fame and recognition through YouTube, this can awaken in them the desire to become active themselves and upload videos to YouTube. Children and young people can test themselves creatively in this way and strengthen their media skills. For you as a parent, there are a few things to keep in mind if your child is active on YouTube or wants to be.

Protection of minors on YouTube

Videos for children must be marked as such. No personalized ads will then be displayed in front of these videos. In addition, other functions such as live chat or the comment function are limited. The community guidelines specify a way of dealing on the platform to protect children. No content may be shared that depicts children engaging in sexual or dangerous acts, or that could endanger the physical or emotional well-being of young users. YouTube encourages its members to immediately report videos and channels that violate the Community Guidelines.

YouTube advertising

Before, during and after video clips, YouTube shows more and more advertising, as it is not necessarily age-appropriate (if the videos were not “marked” as “For Children” when they were posted). Advertising from influencers that is woven into videos as if completely by accident is difficult for children to see through.

If you or your child publish YouTube videos yourself, there may also be advertisements beforehand. You can hardly influence what advertising is running. However, be sure to label videos as “For Children” so that there is no content in the ads that is harmful to minors.

How to protect your child on YouTube

You have the option to set the restricted mode in your child’s YouTube profile. The user is then only shown videos that have been classified as age-appropriate and harmless – if they were marked accordingly when they were posted and classified as such by YouTube’s algorithm (i.e. programming that runs in the background). Inappropriate content is blocked and is not available in restricted mode.

With the so-called parental control, you should be able to decide what your child sees on YouTube or to track it. It works through an adult’s Google account. Weigh whether this is necessary, or whether agreeing on rules and having regular exchanges about YouTube use might be a better way forward for you and your child.

The problem is that algorithms do not work error-free and a video can easily “slip through”. You should therefore additionally keep an eye on what videos your child is watching and whether you find them suitable. The restricted mode can also be easily bypassed. If, for example, another browser is used or the browser data is deleted, the parental control is canceled. An additional security measure is independent parental control programs that can be easily installed on the PC free of charge. It should be noted that some programs block the entire YouTube website.

If your child wants to upload videos themselves, work out together what and how much can be shown to protect your child’s privacy. Also, talk about the dangers of cybergrooming and hate speech and make it clear that your child can and should talk to you about such things. When uploading, videos can be set to “unlisted” or “private”. Think with your child about who should have access to the content. However, you can’t completely eliminate the risk of videos being posted and shared on other social media channels.

Also talk about the right to one’s own image, the protection of intimacy and privacy, and copyright. Because it can easily happen that your child unknowingly violates such guidelines – for example, if people are seen who have not given their consent or music is used that is protected by copyright.
YouTube has long been part of children’s everyday lives and is an important channel. Keep an open mind about your child’s desire to watch videos or take action on their own. Talk to your child about possible risks and sources of danger and create usage rules for YouTube together.

Advertising on YouTube, Instagram & Co.

Have you noticed this too: Almost every YouTube video is preceded by a commercial clip, and many videos are interrupted by commercials in between as well. When scrolling through the Instagram feed, it’s hard to distinguish posts from subscribed channels from ads. For children and young people, this is even more difficult.

Advertising has existed on the Internet for a long time and in a wide variety of forms. Read more about this in our articles Click, swipe, like, bought – Recognizing and questioning advertising in the media and Social media, influencers and the dear money.

Some social media portals have been running a particularly large amount of advertising for some time. This makes it difficult to distinguish commercial content from other postings and clips.

YouTube advertising

Watching a YouTube video without encountering ads seems almost impossible anymore. More and more people are earning money with YouTube. For this, YouTuber can place advertisements: There are ads in the browser window, within a video or as links in the video description. Commercials can run before and during a video and some cannot be skipped. Advertising is often displayed on a person-specific basis, i.e. depending on location, interests and preferences.

Above all, the operator Google earns with it. More advertising makes the offer less attractive at the same time. In this way, Google is attracting more and more users to its paid-for, but ad-free premium offer, which is constantly referred to.

So if you want to keep watching your favorite YouTube videos, you may have to put up with ads or pay for YouTube.

Videos aimed at children must not contain personalized and non-age appropriate advertising. Nevertheless, companies also place ads on these videos. That’s why the ad-free app YouTube Kids is recommended especially for younger children.

When using YouTube on your smartphone, apps like NewPipe prevent ads from being displayed.

Advertising on Instagram and TikTok

In the popular social media portals, there are not only advertisements from influencers. On Instagram, companies display ads within the feed or as Stories. Stories from companies or brands are automatically displayed when you look at the Stories of friends or subscribed channels. In the feed, you can recognize advertisements by the fact that they are posts from mostly unsubscribed channels, marked with “Sponsored”. TikTok also has sponsored clips. In addition, the hashtags and challenges popular with the platform are also used by companies to start trends around their brands and thus reach many users with short videos.

You can (de)activate certain preferences for ads in the Instagram settings, but you can’t turn them off completely. With TikTok, you can’t make any settings about advertising at all.

What else can you do as a parent?

If your child is young or has little media experience, you should guide him or her in using video portals such as YouTube. Explain to him the difference between advertising and other content and show him how to recognize it.

Certain browser settings, such as disabling cookies when visiting a website or installing plug-ins, can help you see less advertising.

When your son or daughter starts using Instagram or TikTok, go through the apps’ settings options together. Make your child aware that there is also a lot of commercial content there and regulate how to deal with it.

If your child knows how media works and that many make money from social media, he or she can learn to use it consciously and safely.

Who makes money with TikTok

The short video app TikTok reaches millions of people and has a particularly large number of young users. TikTok is all about fun, sharing and creativity. For some TikTokers, it’s all about making money with the app.

How to make money with TikTok?

TikToker would like to get their videos on the “For You Page” so that as many people as possible can see their clips. This can get them lots of new followers, so a wider reach. Many TikTok stars have become famous overnight this way. This makes them attractive to companies that use them as influencers for advertising.

Paid advertising

High-reach companies pay TikToker to promote a brand or product. These collaborations must be clearly marked as advertising. Companies are increasingly relying on so-called micro-influencers, which means that even users with just a few hundred followers may receive requests for cooperation.

Donations during livestreams

In livestreams, viewers can give gifts to influencers. These virtual items, such as a panda emoji, must be purchased beforehand: Users buy coins with real money, which can be exchanged for gifts. Influencers, in turn, can exchange the gifts they receive back into cash and cash out. A part always remains with TikTok and they earn with it.

Why supporting your favorite influencer can be really expensive for fans and how you can protect your child from this can be read in our article Social Media Influencers and the Dear Money.

Affiliate marketing

This is an agreement between a TikToker or TikTokeress and a company. He or she links an online store on his or her own profile and receives a commission for each item sold through the link. This must be made recognizable as advertising.

Sell own products

Many influencers sell items decorated with their own design or creative sayings. To do this, they work with service providers who take care of printing and sales. The influencer receives an agreed amount per item sold.

Opportunities to earn money on TikTok are many and getting started is often straightforward. Children and young people in particular see the TikTok stars as role models and want to be like them.

What should I pay attention to if my child wants to earn money with TikTok?

To stay relevant to audiences and businesses, TikTokers need to post interesting images and videos regularly – preferably several times a day. Competition is fierce and trends on TikTok are fast moving. This can create pressure to perform and stress , which children and adolescents in particular are not yet able to handle well. Family life and school performance can also suffer.

TikTokers especially want to gain a lot of attention with videos of dangerous challenges or by portraying themselves in a provocative or sexualized way. To get more gifts that can be converted into money during a livestream, quid pro quos are often offered. This can be greetings by name but also the cell phone number or a private picture to people who are strangers. Here it is especially important that you protect your child from cybergrooming. Discuss these risks calmly with your child. If he/she would like to post his/her own videos and expresses the desire to earn money as a TikToker, consider together whether and how this is compatible with school and other hobbies and under what conditions he/she will get your permission. In addition, your child has limited legal capacity until he or she reaches the age of majority and also needs your consent to have an account on TikTok.

You can read more tips about this in our post Children’s Influencers and Family Channels.

Click, Swipe, Like – Bought? Recognizing and questioning advertisements in the media

Whether on television, at the bus stop or on the Internet – advertising is part of our everyday lives. Even young children see commercials on TV or encounter it in the supermarket, where many products based around children’s media heroes like Elsa, Sandman & Co. are available for purchase. On websites and video platforms, older children and young people in particular come into contact with various forms of advertising: Influencers wear the latest sneakers in their videos, present a cosmetic product from their favorite brand, or unpack the game console they just bought in front of the camera in an unboxing video. Even in many game apps, there are ads that you have to click away to continue playing.

What advertising is allowed?

Media content for children must be designed in such a way that they can recognize advertising and their childlike inexperience is not exploited. This includes, for example, the clear separation of content and advertising. On television, there is a visual and audio cue at the beginning and end of the commercial. A children’s program must not be interrupted by commercials. On children’s sites on the web, advertising banners must be labeled and must not overlap content or interfere with children’s use of the sites. Also, not all products (such as alcohol) may be advertised to protect children. 

Suggestions and tips

Help your child recognize and see through advertising. With age, the understanding of advertising also increases. From around the age of 8, children understand that advertising is not intended to provide neutral information, but to encourage them to buy.

Especially when it comes to online advertising, younger children first have to learn that advertising is displayed at the same time as the actual content on a website. 

Ads within game apps often pop up unexpectedly, which is why kids can accidentally click on ad content. When downloading free children’s apps, pay attention to whether they contain so-called in-game advertising. Decide if this is problematic for your child. You should pay special attention if advertising content in the game tempts you to move faster, if the advertising is not marked or separated from the game content, or if children are hindered while playing.

Older children and young people face the challenge of recognizing whether their idols are just presenting a product or whether they are concerned with real content. This is because videos by influencers are not always labeled as advertising, although this is mandatory if they receive money from companies for it. Watch videos and Instagram stories together, and watch together for hints of advertising and sponsorship in the content you share.

Talk openly with your child about the various forms of advertising in media. Only then can it learn to deal consciously and critically with advertising and the purchasing decisions it makes in everyday life. Think of your role model function as well.

Advertising suitable for children? Here you can find information!

  • Children and online advertising guide: www.kinder-onlinewerbung.de
  • Media Smart, educational initiative to promote advertising literacy: www.mediasmart.de
  • Children’s search engine www.fragfinn.de: websites suitable for children, editorially checked by media educators, many of which are free of advertising or meet strict criteria, including those relating to advertising and commercial content.

YouTube Premium – Competition for Streaming Providers?

YouTube is by far the most popular online platform for videos. It is free of charge and is mainly financed by advertisements that are played before or during the clips. With YouTube Premium, you can use YouTube content for a fee without commercial interruption and with other benefits. The premium version looks very similar to the free YouTube, but can do a lot more.

In a nutshell:

  • monthly subscription (approx. 12,- €) as single person or as family (from 13 years)
  • Comprehensive offer of videos, music and exclusive content
  • Child protection possible via the integrated YouTube Kids
  • Usable as an app and via a browser

What can YouTube Premium do?

To use the service, you need to register and decide whether you want to use it alone or together with your family. Content can be downloaded and played offline – but only in the app. You can also listen to music content in the background while using another app at the same time. Turning off advertisements must be enabled in the settings.

YouTube Premium includes the ad-free variant of the music streaming service YouTube Music. (This is also available as a free app with ads.) It also includes the YouTube Gaming app, and you get access to YouTube Original – exclusive content that can only be seen on YouTube.

For whom can the offer be interesting?

Children and young people use YouTube for various things in everyday life. They follow YouTubers, get information and are entertained. For those who use a lot of music, movies and videos, a premium account might be attractive. Especially because you can watch videos without commercial interruption.

If you like to use YouTube as a family, the offer is a bit cheaper compared to other streaming offers. YouTube is an all-rounder with a very broad offer. If you want to use only series or only music, other offers are better suited.

What can be problematic about the offer?

Google is behind all of YouTube ‘s offerings. Among other things, the American company earns its money by collecting and analyzing user data. Although the many connected services have some advantages, privacy concerns are appropriate.

YouTube points out that only ads set by them can be turned off. If ads appear in users’ videos (e.g., as product placement), you’ll see them in YouTube Premium videos, too.

As a parent, what should you be aware of?

Pay attention to the data you provide about yourself when registering and whether all the information is necessary. Read the privacy policy and familiarize yourself with the app’s capabilities, for example, at mobilsicher.de.

The wide range of YouTube can tempt you to keep watching and forget about the time. Mutually agreed rules help to ensure that this does not happen so quickly. For younger children, we also recommend using the YouTube Kids app to ensure that your child only sees age-appropriate content. With a YouTube Premium family account, you can enable or hide different features depending on your age group. However, keep in mind that inappropriate content may still appear, as it is sometimes well hidden. Accompanying your child’s use of YouTube and other media allows you to talk about it and be there for questions.

Not all influencers are the same

12- to 17-year-olds in particular often spend several hours a day on social media platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok or Instagram. In doing so, they look at content from people they don’t know personally, but still know a lot about. Even though the term influencer sounds like a strong influence, your child is actively choosing to follow someone and watch their videos for specific reasons. Certain influencers have varying degrees of importance or lasting interest.

Influencers report in pictures or videos about their supposed everyday life or deal with topics such as fashion, beauty or gaming. Influencers offer orientation, for example, when it comes to one’s own search for identity, but also something like friendship. One can distinguish between different types of influencers:

Influencer types by follower count

The simplest classification is according to the number of followers, which tells how big an influencer’s reach is. Influencers with low reach are also significant for companies to advertise with. The most common terms are as follows:

Mega-influencer, super-influencer or hero-influencer
These influencers have reach in the millions and get the most attention on social networks. They are the stars of the scene, such as Bibi or Lisa and Lena.

Star influencer or celebrity influencer
This is the name given to influencers who have become prominent as athletes, film stars, or pop stars and also have a large fan community outside of social media.

Macro-Influencer or Everyday-Influencer
They have a smaller but still large reach with about 50,000 followers. They are considered role models in their scene and often set new trends.

But micro- or nano-influencers also have a strong influence. They are experts on certain topics, e.g. bloggers or Youtubers with channels on specific topics. They are considered very credible in their field and have a loyal following. Emerging or Rising Influencers are considered the upcoming talents, with a still small reach.

Influencer types according to the way they appear

Influencers can also be distinguished by the topics they cover and the way they perform:

Style Inspirers
They celebrate lifestyle in beauty, cars, fashion, food and travel. They allow the user to daydream while remaining approachable through their interaction.

They are mentors, i.e. they take the follower by the hand, offer orientation and concrete advice. Topics can range from do-it-yourself to life hacks and life advice to any hobby or niche interest.

Although they often only serve a small niche as micro-influencers, they are a great authority in this field. They offer valuable guidance to followers on a particular topic through their great expertise.

They are concerned with making everyday, political and scientific topics understandable and making them accessible to others. Besides, thanks to them, their followers have the opportunity to form their own opinion. They draw their credibility from their conviction.

Self-promoters and entertainers
They are funny and entertaining. Watching their videos, you can briefly escape from everyday life. With ingenuity and a lot of character, they offer good entertainment.

These role models represent certain ideals from everyday life, politics or lifestyle that they follow.

Ask your child about what excites and interests them about one person or another. Perhaps you too will find inspiration in an influencer!

Unboxing – entertainment, information or product promotion?

At Christmas, we not only unwrap presents ourselves, but we also watch others do so time and time again. This can be really fun. What is in the gift box and how does the person react to it? Something similar happens in so-called unboxing videos throughout the year. In the videos, people show how they unpack something. Mostly products that they have previously ordered. On video portals like YouTube, such videos are particularly popular and are watched by millions of people. But anyone who has seen an unboxing video will quickly realize that it is not always easy to distinguish between advertising and entertainment.

What is an unboxing video?

Unboxing videos (to unbox = to unpack) are online videos in which a person unboxes a product from its original box. The video shows up close how the specific product is removed from the packaging and then presented to the viewers down to the smallest detail, commented on and usually tried out.

Unboxing videos often appear in the so-called vlogging style and have characteristics of an explainer video. Technical devices such as smartphones, consoles or tablets are often unpacked in the videos, but toys, food or items of clothing also find a place of presentation in them.

Why are unboxing videos fascinating?

The reasons for the fascination with unboxing videos are very different. One of the reasons might be that viewers can’t get enough of the feeling of being able to unpack something, even to the point of watching other people do it – which incidentally even saves time and money. But it’s also about getting a first impression of a new product that viewers are interested in. But unlike advertisements from the manufacturer, the “unboxing producers” comment and rate in a seemingly open and honest way. Another motive is the possibility of interaction in a community, where queries about the product, comments as well as opinions can be shared. This also helps to identify with a product or to clearly differentiate from it.

What should you look for when your child wants to create unboxing videos on their own?

There’s not much to look for in an unboxing video as a parent. Basically, it is important that your child presents an original product and not, for example, a counterfeit, since the trademark owner has a vested interest in ensuring that foreign or counterfeit products are not attributed to him and could thus damage the trademark. If your child is interested in creating a video, accompany him/her in the process, present for example. a game you are convinced of and experience the world of games in a completely different way.


Unboxing videos offer many opportunities. From the fascination of unpacking, to pure information, to interaction, various interests can be served. Nevertheless, a watchful eye should always be kept when children use such videos or create them themselves. After all, unboxing videos are also advertising and consumer intentions can quickly reach their child unfiltered. So discuss what you’ve seen and make your child aware of any advertising intentions. Many influencers also refer to creating their videos as a job, as they are paid by companies to show and try out their products. As with many other activities online, be sure to accompany your child as they watch the videos. If you keep this in mind, nothing will stand in the way of fun watching. Pack – uh – try it out, too!

As an aside…

  • The information website Yahoo Tech launched the first real unboxing video back in 2006 and presented the Nokia E61 cell phone in it.
  • The interest in unboxing now seems so great that a private television station has already taken notice and is dedicating its own unboxing show for children to the whole topic.
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