Online youth protection means: Assessing media content and regulating and monitoring its public distribution.

Protecting children and adolescents from inappropriate online content while encouraging them to actively participate: This is a challenge facing providers, institutions and families alike. With education, guidance, guidelines, control and also with sanctions, minors are to be protected from topics and content that are not yet suitable for them. In practice, this means evaluating media content for its potential danger, regulating its distribution and monitoring compliance with the rules.

The legal framework:
Balancing fundamental values and the protection of minors

In Germany, there are numerous laws aiming to protect minors from harmful media content. They regulate which obligations and restrictions apply to providers of digital media content. The most important legal requirements for the protection of minors are

  • German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV)
  • Interstate Media Treaty (MStV)
  • German Protection of Young Persons Act (JuSchG) and
  • German Criminal Code (StGB).

The aim is to reconcile the protection of children and adolescents with the fundamental values of an enlightened society, such as freedom of speech and information, a ban on censorship, and the educational privilege and duty of parents.

Kinder am Tablet, Eltern verschwommen im Hintergrund zu sehen

It is always a challenge to protect children and young people from harmful online media while also encouraging them to actively participate.

Relevant media content

There are three different content categories regarding the protection of minors:

Content with a harmful effect on development can inhibit, interrupt or set back the development of children and young people into responsible, self-determining people able to realise their potential freely within the community. This applies in particular to content that is sexually or socio-ethically disorienting, promotes violent attitudes or arouses excessive fears. Providers of such content must ensure that minors of the affected age bracket(s) would not normally see or hear it.

Content illegal for minors but legal for adults is material that is pornographic in other respects, content that evidently poses a serious threat to development or content that has been indexed by the Review Board for Media Harmful to Young People of the Federal Centre for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Media (BzKJ). Providers of relatively inadmissible content must ensure that it is only accessible to adults in closed user groups.

Illegal content may generally not be disseminated at all, even to adults. For the most part, this is content whose dissemination is already prohibited under the Criminal Code (StGB), like child sexual abuse material or glorification of violence.

At a glance

Relevant media content regarding the protection of minors is defined by the German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media.

Content with a harmful effect on development
Article 5 Para. 4 JMStV

Content illegal for minors but legal for adults
Article 4 Para. 2 JMStV

Illegal content
Article 4 Para. 1 JMStV

Youth media protection in detail

There is a great deal of content on the internet children and young people must be protected from. Youth protection programmes, age verification systems and other technical systems are suitable options.

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Company’s obligations

Youth protection presents companies with numerous issues to be considered. The regulations laid down by youth media protection law are complex, sanctions for infringements are severe. Companies and providers have to meet these requirements.

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