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Protect our kids online, German parents demand

January 13, 2020

Slack safeguards for kids on social media, video and games portals have been slammed by parents in a German survey. 55% said their children had been hurt by 'excessive' consumption, bullying, violence and pornography.

Child watching porn on laptop
Image: picture-alliance/chromorange/R. Peters

German parents are alarmed by what they see as gaps in online providers' safeguards for their children, including failings to verify and deter underage usage. That's according to a representative survey published Monday by Germany's children's rights organization Kinderhilfswerk (DHKW).

Key findings

1,003 parents or legal guardians caring for at least one child younger than 18 were sampled by the institute Mauss Research.

  • Some 93% want harsher penalties for domestic and foreign platforms under Germany's child protection laws while urging that these be updated to deal with "future phanomena and technologies."
  • Only 27% of parents ranked positively safeguards on messenging services and video platforms.
  • That fell further to 18% for social media providers such as Facebook and Instagram.
  • More than half — 55% — said their children had had negative experiences with online media — ranging from excessive media consumption to chain mails, bullying, portrayals of violence to pornography, and cyber grooming.
  • By age 11, practically all children were using a digital end device, such as a smartphone, tablet or PC. Among those under 6, one in three were already equipped.

Read more: German minister calls for "new culture" of language and remedial reading

DHKW president Thomas Krüger, a former Berlin senator for family and youth and current head of Germany's BPB civic education agency, on Monday demanded "effective framework of legislative requirements."

Thomas Krüger
'Effective' rules to safeguard kids, urges Thomas KrügerImage: Imago Images/M. Popow

"We needed a comprehensive system of child and juvenile media protection orientated around the real usage behaviors of children and teenagers," said Krüger, whose DHKW also has a special focus on helping kids learn media competencies.

"Providers of messenger services and video platforms do particularly badly here," concluded the DKHW in its press statement, adding that providers' "efforts" were [generally] "assessed as insufficient."

'Insufficient' efforts, say parents

Almost all parents — 97% — said that a "good" system of age verification was important in the choice of social media services or games for their offspring.

And 88% said they scanned for age suitability designations for films, apps, games and streaming services, when overseeing their children's electronic usage.

Read more: German plans to use fake porn to snare pedophiles

Only 37% replied that they knew whom to consult about negative experiences. Among this cohort of respondents, only 66% were inclined to consult prosecutory services, notably the police, said the DKHW.

"Potential offers that could help parents to safely accompany and support their children on the net are rated very positively overall," it urged. 

Children reading from a Tablet
Engrossed on-screen or in books?Image: Fotolia/Karin & Uwe Annas

Draft bill

Late last year, Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) submitted a draft "juvenile media protection" bill.

Katja Mast, deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary party, told the German news agency DPA that such a modernization was agreed within the governing grand coalition comprising the SPD and Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

Giffey's bill would be submitted to Bundestag parliamentary debate before its mid-year summer recess, said Mast.

Safe Surfing for Kids

ipj/rt (dpa, AFP, KNA)

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