Parents are one of the key points of contact for their children when they have questions about media use. The challenge for parents is the constant need to maintain a balance between their role as protectors and their desire to help their children benefit from the diverse opportunities presented by digital media. The following wide-ranging information is designed to help parents support their children as they grow up alongside digital and mobile media, and to do so in a manner that is age-appropriate, service-specific and above all – just like each child – distinctive and individual. The FSM will be happy to assist with further information – please get in touch!
Internet guide for parents
It goes without saying that children grow up with media. They also gather their impressions of the media, above all, in the family, for example, in watching television together or observing their parents on the laptop, tablet-PC and so on. Children follow this behaviour with curiosity and frequently with the desire to make active use of media themselves. The Internet in particular opens many possibilities for them, e.g. through games sites, online offerings from TV stations or information portals for children. Online game offers can stimulate the child‘s fantasy and be a meaningful addition to children’s play, which is very important for their development. Besides the learning processes connected with play, this also involves pleasure, the spirit of discovery and entertainment.
The Internet has a great appeal for children on account of the variety of offerings. Above all, the combination of different kinds of media, for example the matching game combined with a lot of other information around the favourite TV series contributes to this appeal. But in spite of their fearless and interest-led approach, children are still not media and Internet professionals. They must learn to find their way in the diverse world of the media and to find the right offering for the right purpose, to reflect on their own behaviour as a user, to recognize underlying aspects of media-society and politics and also to make productive use of media for themselves. A not altogether simple task, which in addition is constantly changing its nature with rapidly developing media technologies. The general term ”media competence” summarizes this extensive catalogue of tasks.
You as parents can and should help and accompany your child in this learning process. The following tips may be of assistance:
- At the beginning always surf in the Internet together with your child.
- Make use of the sites recommended for children. These can quickly be found using search engines for children.
- Open a user account of their own for your child. In this way, special security settings – e.g. time restrictions – offered by your operating system can also be used.
- Set a children’s site or search engine for children as the starting page in the browser in your child’s user account.
- Make use of suitable parental control software, e.g. those approved by the KJM
- Agree clear rules for using the Internet with your child – in respect of both the period of use and the content to be used. Have regard in this to the development of your child. With increasing age, greater freedom in using the Internet and media use in general should also be agreed.
- With increasing age, the communication aspect will become ever more important. Allow your child to use only moderated chat lines, e.g. the service at www.kindersache.de of the German Children's Aid Society. There are also special e-mail providers for children.
- Always keep up-to-date yourself, to be a competent partner in conversation with your child.
- Talk with your child about their use of the Internet and how they have experienced what they have seen.
- Explain to your child that you do not wish to control or patronise them but to come to an agreement about their use of the Internet.
- Prepare your child for possible dangers in the Internet. In particular, disclosing personal information should be avoided. On this subject there are a number of sites from which your child can gain information in a playful manner.
- Report problematic content relevant to protection of minors to a hotline, e.g. www.internet-beschwerdestelle.de
- Put the computer in a place where you can see it – not in the child’s own room.
Not every child is the same – no more so than is every family. These tips can be understood only as starting points. You yourself know your child best and are able to estimate potential dangers, but also opportunities. For this reason, regular communication and reflection about your child’s use of the Internet is of special significance. In association with the technical possibilities of youth protection, you can, in this way, make use of the Internet productively and above all creatively.
Tips for using YouNow
YouNow is a so-called “streaming service” allowing images and sound to be broadcast over the Internet, easily, live and in real time. All it requires is a computer with Internet access and a webcam or a smartphone with a camera and the corresponding YouNow app. Viewers have the option of using a chat window to enter comments or questions, which will then be answered directly. Although one has to be logged in beforehand in order to stream own content, previously published streams can be viewed and commented on without any need to log in.
Adolescents are especially fascinated by the simplicity of YouNow: virtually anywhere they happen to be with their smartphone, they can start or view a live stream. This makes it easy for them to share content with others and check the effect they are having.
Above all, the fact that content is broadcast live on YouNow can cause problems. Children and adolescents often recklessly publish content that does not belong on the Internet. In particular, personal details such as addresses, names, phone numbers or names of schools may be misused by viewers, in this case anonymously. But insults and mobbing are also possible on YouNow thanks to its comment and chat function.
If the live stream is happening in public, the personal rights of third parties will often be affected – if, for example, the material is streamed secretly at school without first obtaining permission from the persons shown. Care must also be taken that any music playing in the background is not protected by copyright – otherwise GEMA fees may be incurred.
As with any other provider, users have to comply with the internal rules of the platform. Only young persons aged 13 and over are allowed to use YouNow. It is forbidden for minors to expose themselves on camera. Obscene or hurtful language is prohibited as a general rule. There is a reporting and blocking system designed to ensure that action is taken against problematic incidents on YouNow. However, monitoring is extremely difficult due to the wide variety of live streams and the fact that the service operates in real time. It is also almost impossible to check the age of users, because they log in via an existing Google+, Twitter or Facebook account.
In principle, parents should try to discuss media use with their children and to show that they are open to the positive aspects of the services on offer. However, a general discussion can flag up potential dangers and problems, raising adolescents’ awareness of these issues and prompting them to reflect on their own media use. Parents with younger minors would be better advised to ban their children from using YouNow, using technical means to ensure that the site cannot be accessed. This should be done using suitable precautionary measures, such as adjusting the settings in the operating system and installing a youth protection program. Parents can direct children to sensible and suitable alternative services. Tips in this regard can be found on sites like www.juki.de, www.fragfinn.de, www.seitenstark.de, http://enfk.de/.
In the case of older minors, the potential risks of this service should be emphasised, along with how to deal with these risks and react to problems.
fragFINN e. V. is a non-profit registered association engaged in building up and maintaining a whitelist of Internet services suitable for children and committed to positive youth media protection and raising children’s media skills. The aim is to strengthen the trust placed in the Internet as a medium by children, parents and teachers. The association is financed and supported by well-known companies and organisations in the telecommunications, Internet and media sector. fragFINN was initially set up by FSM at the end of 2007 as a part of “Ein Netz für Kinder” (A network for children), an initiative of the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. In November 2009 came the foundation of the association.
fragFINN provides a protected surfing space designed especially for children aged 6 to 12. Its child-friendly search engine will only find websites that are suitable for children, with content checked by media education specialists, and the search results prioritise children’s websites. fragFINN.de also includes an area designed for adults, where a variety of technical options for ensuring a safe surfing space are presented. Parents and teachers will find informative literature available for download, along with links to other sites providing advice on safely surfing the Internet.
The “klicksafe.de” project aims to function as a nationwide platform highlighting the opportunities and risks presented by the Internet – a national hub for a network of existing information offers and initiatives within Germany. Partners from the political, business, social and economic spheres work together within the “klicksafe.de” network. The project was commissioned by the European Union as part of its Safer Internet Programme, aimed at raising the level of Internet skills among EU citizens.