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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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 Xplora XGO3: The smartwatch for children

The Xplora XGO3 is a smartwatch specially developed for children that combines safety and fun. With its multiple functions, it offers parents the opportunity to manage and monitor communication with their children while giving children a sense of independence. We explain what’s behind the smartwatch for children.

In a nutshell:

  • Smartwatch for children aged 5 to 12 years
  • GPS tracking, SOS emergency call function, pedometer, call and message function (limited), school mode
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Costs: around €100, depending on the provider and contract model

What is behind the offer?

The Xplora XGO3 is designed to provide children with a degree of safety while allowing them to explore the world around them and develop their independence. For you as a parent, the smartwatch is a tool for monitoring and managing communication with your child. It is not a fully-fledged smartwatch, but is designed with children in mind and can be operated intuitively by touch.

Key features include GPS tracking to keep track of your child’s whereabouts, an SOS emergency call function in case of an emergency and a limited communication option to enable contact with trusted people. Making phone calls and sending (voice) messages is possible, surfing the Internet is excluded. You cannot enter your own texts for messages.

You can also use the parent app on your smartphone to set a school mode for your child’s school hours and a safety zone in which your child can move around freely without you being notified.

What fascinates children and young people about it?

Children and teenagers love the opportunity to wear a smartwatch like adults, but one that is specially tailored to their needs. Functions such as answering calls from pre-authorized contacts and sending SOS messages offer security and a feeling of independence. The little extras such as games or the mini camera can also be fun. In addition, the integrated pedometer motivates children to stay active and promote their fitness.

What can be problematic about the offer?

  • Data protection and privacy The use of GPS tracking and communication functions can entail data protection risks
  • Communication risks Restricted calling and messaging cannot completely eliminate the possibility of unwanted contacts.
  • Distraction: The constant availability of calls and messages as well as the possibility of playing games can lead to distractions and impair your child’s concentration.
  • Dependence on technology: The availability of features such as GPS tracking and instant communication can lead to your child relying too much on the smartwatch and becoming less independent.

What does the provider think?

The provider emphasizes the importance of data protection and provides data protection settings to protect the privacy of users. Parental control functions are also offered to monitor and restrict use. The provider emphasizes that the safety and protection of children is the top priority.

What should parents pay attention to?

  • Adjust the settings: Take your time to adjust the smartwatch settings according to your child’s needs and age.
  • Data protection and privacy: Talk to your child about the importance of data protection and security when using technological devices. Agree rules with your child about the use of GPS tracking – because your child also has the right to free development, albeit in a protected space.
  • Contact restrictions: Check your child’s contact list regularly and make sure that only trustworthy people have access to the smartwatch’s communication functions. Explain to your child why these restrictions are important and how they should react if they are contacted by strangers.
  • Communication and use: Use the communication features to stay in touch and teach your child to use it responsibly. For example, explain that your child is not allowed to simply take photos of others without asking their permission first.
  • Independence and freedom: Encourage your child to be independent even without the smartwatch, to move around freely and to develop skills such as a sense of direction and social skills.
  • Rules at your school: Find out in advance about any guidelines regarding the use of smartwatches at your child’s school.

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.
Please also take note of our privacy policy.

Registration:

    Hiermit melde ich mich zum virtuellen Elternabend von Elternguide.online am 03.06.2024 um 17.00 Uhr verbindlich an.

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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.

    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.

    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.

    Media education for siblings

    In many families with siblings, there are arguments about media use: the younger ones feel unfairly treated if they are allowed less than the older ones. What some people find exciting, others find boring. Conversely, some media offerings are too much for younger children. The older ones have the feeling that they constantly have to be considerate of their younger siblings. How can parents master the balancing act between the needs of siblings and encourage their children to use media competently?

    Making media rules fair

    Whether an only child or a sibling – rules on media use in the family give children structure and security for their everyday life with media. The needs and developmental stages of each child should be taken into account. For example, it can make sense to give older siblings more freedom when it comes to media use, while younger children are subject to stricter limits. For example, older children are allowed to take certain devices into their own room, while younger children should only use media in the shared living areas. The times of use must match the age of the children. Younger people should spend less time in front of a screen than older people. Define the rules together and make sure that they are fair and understandable for everyone. For example, a media usage contract that you draw up individually for each child can help. Everyone in the family should adhere to basic media rules such as “no media at the dinner table”.

    Accompanying sibling conflicts

    “Give me my tablet back now!”, “That’s for babies, I want to listen to something exciting!”, “Why do I have to turn it off when she can still watch?”. Do sentences like this sound familiar? If the age gap is large, different rules apply for each child. This can easily lead to arguments between siblings, whether over access to certain devices or the choice of content. Make the rules clear to your children and help them to put themselves in their sibling’s shoes. For example: “Your big sister wasn’t allowed to watch videos for more than an hour when she was at primary school “. Make sure you recognize conflicts in good time and support them well. This strengthens the relationship between the siblings and they learn to negotiate, compromise and resolve conflicts more and more independently.

    Creating shared media experiences

    Watching movies or playing games together is fun and creates a bond. Parents should support their children in choosing suitable media content for shared media use. Shared media rituals such as watching a science program on Sunday or listening to music in the car are fun and strengthen family cohesion. Siblings often process media content together and act out scenes from series or immerse themselves in the world of their favorite characters in role-playing games. Siblings can learn a lot from each other, especially when they are creative with media together and design radio plays, stop-motion films or photo collages themselves.

    Tips on media use by siblings

    • Avoid excessive demands: Choose age-appropriate media, observe the age ratings and use the youngest child as a guide when using media together.
    • Create safe spaces: Make sure that younger children have limited access to media. Make it clear to the older children that they are jointly responsible and must not give the younger ones unauthorized access.
    • Make agreements: Make sure that the media rules are adhered to in the family. Take the different needs and preferences of your children seriously. Establish fairness and decide together, for example, which child is allowed to decide which media content and when.
    • Find alternatives: one child watches on the TV, the other on the tablet – this can be a solution for different preferences and levels of development. If the younger child’s media time is already over while the older child is still allowed to use media, offer your young child an alternative, media-free playtime.
    • Promote media literacy: Be aware of your role model function by setting a healthy example for your own media use. Have regular open discussions in the family about the advantages and disadvantages of media. In this way, you can help your children to deal with media in a critical and reflective way in line with their age and promote their media skills.

    Instagram

    Instagram is one of the most popular apps among young people. Experiences are shared as stories, influencersshowwhat’s hot at the moment, users find out about a news feed or are simply entertained.

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    In a nutshell:

    • social network that can be used free of charge after registration via the app
    • Publish and view photos, short videos(reels), live streams and so-called stories
    • Minimum age: 13 years
    • Caution: contains a lot of advertising, children and young people can be confronted with unsuitable content,
    • Provider: Instagram is like Facebook a service of the large US internet company Meta

    What is Instagram?

    Instagram, or Insta for short, is more than just a picture platform. Above your own feed (accessible in the app via the house icon), you will find the latest stories and live streams from users you follow. These disappear again after 24 hours, but can also be saved by the person who posted the story on their own account as a so-called highlight. The feed also displays the newly posted photos and videos of the subscribed channels and people.

    Users can find a wide variety of content on Insta: Posts by stars and starlets, about brands and products, current challenges and even personal profiles of friends. You can respond with likes and comments.

    You can create and edit your own posts with filters, emojis, fonts, etc. directly in the app. In captions, your own content – i.e. photos and videos – can be assigned to topics with a hashtag. Under Instagram Reels (accessible below the feed via the video icon) you can find short videos in TikTok style.

    What particularly fascinates children and young people about Instagram?

    The popularity of Instagram lies, among other things, in its focus on photos and videos. Various and easy-to-use tools help to get the best out of your own image. It is particularly appealing for young people to present themselves in the best light and test their effect on others. The app also makes it quick and easy to document and share the best moments with friends or family.

    Children and young people are constantly finding new content about their idols on Instagram. They can follow what they are doing virtually around the clock, comment on pictures, like them, save them and forward them to other people. Insta is a great way to while away the time waiting for the bus or to keep an eye on what your crush from the next class is doing in his free time.

    Influencers, stars and people with a creator account can create broadcast channels. With the help of an invitation link, users can join and invite other people. Children and young people find out even more about the (public) lives of their stars in the broadcast channels and receive news before people outside this channel.

    At the end of 2023, Meta also launched the app in Germany Threads app in Germany. This is (closely) linked to Instagram.

    What is problematic about the offer?

    The joint privacy policy of Facebook and Instagram, which all users agree to when registering, allows the sharing of user data with other services of the parent company Meta and with third parties. The app enables so-called crossposting. This means that a photo can also be posted on Facebook can be shared. If you have a Facebook account, you should check the settings carefully when publishing posts.

    Instagram can determine the location of users via the posts they make. Privately set accounts prevent this. In addition, access to the location can be set both in the app and in the app permissions on your own smartphone and tablet. Then Instagram cannot see the location of public accounts either. However, a location can be added to each posted image manually afterwards.

    Content on Instagram is subject to payment if children and young people not only follow an account, but also subscribe to it. The monthly price is set by the creators themselves and the subscription can usually be canceled on a monthly basis. Subscribers have access to exclusive content such as pictures, reels and stories. If you would like to subscribe to an account, you will find a “Subscribe” button next to “Follow”/”Followed” and “Messages” on the profile. A single click on this button does not yet lead to a subscription, but must first be confirmed with further clicks.

    Certain content on Instagram can be problematic for young people: Inappropriate content such as erotic images, dangerous challenges and disinformation, but also advertising. Influencer business models play a special role here, which young people do not always recognize.

    Instagram harbors various communication risks through functions such as chats and comments. For example, contact from strangers, hate speech or online bullying can occur.

    What does the provider think?

    The official minimum age for using Instagram is 13, but there is no effective age control so far. Until your child is 18 years old, you must consent to its use. There are extensive usage and setting options. If your child is under the age of 13, they can use Instagram if you manage the account. This must be included in the profile description. Accounts of children and young people under the age of 18 are automatically set to private after creation. However, this can be changed in the settings afterwards and the profile can be set to public. At Handysektor you can read a short version of the terms of use and download a flyer with the most important safety information about Instagram for young people.

    Since June 2022, there has been “parental supervision”, which allows parents to link their account to that of their child. We present all the setting options in this article. You can find out how Instagram itself wants to make the app safer for young people directly on the Instagram website.

    What should parents pay attention to?

    Together with your child, decide at what age and according to what rules he or she is allowed to use Instagram. Make various settings together so that your child can useInstagram as safely as possible. Not all photos have to be shared with everyone or even just with friends via the internet!

    Talk to your child about communication risks on Instagram, from online bullying to cybergrooming. Show your child how they can block or report other users and explain to them when these functions are useful – for example, if someone insults your child in the comments. Your child should also not simply accept subscription requests from strangers and be sparing with their own data, such as their location.

    Educate your child about risks such as harmful content, hate speech, disinformation and political opinion making. Talk to your child about the critical behavior of influencers and keep talking to them about one-sided role models and clichés. Stay interested and check in regularly to see who your child is following on Instagram and who is following them. It is important that your child knows that they can always talk to you if they have an unpleasant experience on the platform.

    Age-appropriate media for my child

    The overwhelming range of films, series, apps and other media presents parents with the challenge of getting an overview in order to select the right content for their children. After all, the selection should not only be age-appropriate, but also entertaining and, ideally, educational. We have put together a few suggestions on where you can find age-appropriate media for your child.

    Age-appropriate media – what does that mean?

    The choice of media should always be based on your child’s stage of development. Media offerings are tailored to different age groups, and it is important that you as parents pay attention to this. Age recommendations and descriptions of the content can provide helpful information. However, you know your child best, so you can use this as the best basis for determining whether the offer might suit your child.

    Verified media content

    In descriptions of media offerings – whether apps, films or games – there are sometimes different age specifications. A distinction must be made between recommendations, general terms and conditions and age ratings. Specifications and approvals usually have a legal background. For example, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stipulates that certain apps, such as WhatsApp and TikTok may only be used from the age of 13.

    The description in the app stores often contains a different age indication – namely that the app has been approved by the youth media protection authorities. The age ratings issued by self-regulatory bodies such as the FSK or USK rate media according to statutory youth protection criteria. In each case, it is examined whether media content could be dangerous for the development and health of children and adolescents. For example, through the depiction of violence or pornography. Or whether children can be exposed to contact risks through the use of a service. It is not checked whether a plot in a series and characters are understood at a certain age. This means that a Disney movie that is released from the age of “0” is by no means suitable for babies. It just doesn’t pose a risk to them. Access to media for children is to be regulated by means of age labels and technical protection measures. But this only works if you as parents also pay attention.

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

    Suitable media offerings and guidance for parents

    The media landscape for children of nursery and primary school age is huge; older children and young people often switch to adult offerings because there are fewer offerings tailored to them.

    Here you can find good media offers and information:

    • TV, streaming, YouTube, cinema: The FLIMMO parents’ guide offers educational recommendations by age for films, series and shows from media libraries, streaming services, YouTube and TV channels
    • Children’s search engines: Via fragFINN or Helles Köpfchen, children only surf on tested and child-friendly websites.
    • Websites: A large collection of child-friendly websites is listed and presented on seitenstark.de.
    • Apps: We have put together a selection of “Good apps for children” and “Apps for toddlers
    • Children’s radio and podcasts: We have put together a selection for you “There’s something for your ears“.
    • News: We have put together a selection of “News for children and young people“.
    • Games: The NRW games guide provides detailed profiles of computer games with age recommendations.
    • Online television for 14 to 25-year-olds: funk’s diverse content appeals primarily to older young people.

    Tips for your own evaluation of offers

    The selection and examination of media offerings requires time and attention. However, by making conscious decisions and communicating openly, you can ensure that your child uses positive and developmentally relevant media content.

    • Content review: Look at the content and consider whether it fits in with your child’s world and understanding.
    • Interaction options: Images, sounds, music and animations should be age-appropriate and appealing.
    • Simple navigation: The service should be easy to use, ideally voice-controlled for younger children and with few symbols and functions.
    • Advertising and in-app purchases: Make sure there is no advertising and preferably an offer without in-app purchases.
    • Parental settings: Familiarize yourself with the setting options for a safe environment and, if necessary, make use of offers from the technical youth media protection service.
    • Feedback from others: Talk to other parents and check whether the offer comes from trustworthy developers or educational institutions.
    • Test run: Look at or test your selection in advance – without your child.

    Individual support and communication

    Do not rely solely on recommendations, as every child develops differently. Actively accompany your child in their media consumption right from the start in order to understand how they react to certain content.

    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.

    Gaming with the games console? Of course!

    “How much gaming is too much?” and “What will help my child find a healthy way of using the games console?” – Have you ever asked yourself questions like these? Technical measures to protect minors from harmful media are a building block to help your child play safely and in a balanced way on the console. Depending on the age of the child, the type of games and the device, you as parents can make different settings.

    Nintendo Switch

    The parental control system of the Nintendo Switch has been tested by the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK) and judged to be suitable as a program for the protection of minors within the meaning of the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV). With the free “Nintendo Switch age restrictions” app, you can set how much time your child is allowed to spend playing each day. You can restrict access rights to certain games and functions and receive notifications if specified limits are exceeded. You can also set the USK age rating for the game selection under “System settings > Age restrictions”. The app is available free of charge on Apple and Android devices. Current information about the app and the download links can be found on Nintendo’s youth protection pages. It is important to note that the app only works if the Nintendo Switch is running the latest software version. You can find instructions for the update here on the Nintendo website.

    Xbox

    The parental control system of the Xbox has been tested by the USK as a program for the protection of minors in accordance with the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media and meets the high German standards for the protection of minors in the media. On the Xbox you can limit your child’s playtime, control access to certain games and features and set monthly spending limits for digital purchases. Access to the Internet browser can be restricted to prevent visiting unsuitable websites and social media. The Xbox also enables control over online communication. You can specify who your child can chat or play with. You can define the settings on your cell phone using the “Xbox Family Settings app” by creating a child account for your child and adding them to the family group. The app is available free of charge in the app stores for Apple and Android devices. Current information about the app can be found on the Microsoft website.

    Playstation

    For the parental control settings on the Playstation your child needs their own account. To do this, enter a name (this can also be a nickname) and state your child’s date of birth for age checks during games. In addition, you must create a PlayStation Network account free of charge on the Playstation website. You can then add the child account to your account and manage it. On PS5 consoles, you can find the settings under “Settings > Family and parental controls > Family management”. PS4 consoles contain the settings for parental control under: “Settings > Parental Controls/Family Management > Family Management”.

    You can set your child’s daily playtime on the Playstation. In addition, age restrictions can be set for content purchased online and for inserted Blu-Ray discs or DVDs. Other measures include restricting chat options and setting which content can be shared with others. You can find more information on setting up parental controls here on the Sony website.

    What parents should pay attention

    Many current games consoles offer user-friendly protection options, are very secure and meet high German youth protection standards if they have been set up accordingly. However, they alone do not offer one hundred percent protection. There is always the possibility that your child will come across inappropriate content with friends and on unsecured devices or come into contact with strangers. Talk to your child about the use of devices and services and be there as an open contact person for problems. Take your child’s concerns seriously and make it clear to them that they will not face any consequences if they turn to you in confidence.

    Check and update the parental controls regularly to ensure that they are still appropriate and meet your child’s needs.

    Discuss boundaries with your child and actively involve them in setting the parental control settings. Even if you have the last word: let your child know that you want to use the restrictions as a tool to help them learn how to use games consoles properly. Establish rules together for media use in the family that everyone adheres to. A media usage contract can help your child feel involved in the process.

    You can find more up-to-date information on technical measures for various game platforms and consoles on the USK website.

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