To teach children to use the media

Updated: 08.06.2022 – 20:17

Diplomacy for the digital
Children and the media: Teaching children to use the media

Photo: Imago Images / Westend61

We have useful tips for you on how to get good access to your child and their media use.

The offspring often really stick to the cell phone or tablet? Here you can find out how parents can resolve conflicts and teach their children to use the media properly.

“I get a lot of information about musicians from Instagram,” says 15-year-old Anton. Darja, who was the same age, considered WhatsApp to be indispensable, especially in Corona times, to keep in touch with friends. Frederik, ten years old, is particularly interested in computer games: “A lot of unexpected things happen.” The parents of the three work at Stiftung Warentest and usually find that their children use electronic media. But they are also thinking about the right amount.

Gamble, chat, see

According to surveys, the majority of mothers and fathers in Germany are concerned about their children’s media use. Many people feel overwhelmed when it comes to regulating the consumption of smartphones, tablets and game consoles. The devices have moved into the home in a few years, and there is little experience and knowledge from long-term studies on how to use apps, games and applications – but all the more controversial.

And learns a lot along the way

But how do parents get their kids ready for digital media? Stiftung Warentest brought together educational specialists and psychologists and examined specialist information – and derived ten recommendations for parents from everything. (You can find these below) First of all, you need to relax. There is very good in the digital world. Children learn later in life. They teach each other word processing, presentation and arithmetic programs along the way. Creative brains make videos, produce podcasts and open their own channels. They use messenger services to practice maintaining contacts and organizing meetings. On the other hand, young people may also encounter depictions of violence in the media, rip-off pocket money and data, questionable body images, fake news, shitstorms, cyberbullying and cybergrooming, harassment from strangers.

Fifa, Minecraft and Call of Duty

Young people need to learn the ability to use digital media sensibly, just as they do for healthy eating – by their parents. Studies conducted by the media authorities of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate with Südwestrundfunk show how important this is: Almost every household with children has a smartphone and Internet access. Just over one in six six-seven-year-olds used the Internet in 2018 – an average of 15 minutes a day. Of the ten- to eleven-year-olds, 81 percent were online. The service life was 51 minutes. More than 90 percent of 12- to 13-year-olds owned a smartphone by 2020. In addition, there are often laptops, game consoles and tablets. The problem: A lot of parents do not know what their children are actually doing online. According to surveys, games are very popular among many primary school children – the football game Fifa and the construction game Minecraft are at the top of the list for boys, and the simulation game Sims is for girls.

And WhatsApp greets you every day

Social networks play an important role for young people. 86 percent use WhatsApp daily followed by Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. Especially girls like TikTok. Megatrend among teens: Watch series on Netflix and Co.

Accusations are unfair

It is unfair to blame children and young people when they are sucked into computer games, social media and videos. The offers are designed to captivate. Providers can then collect data, place ads – and make money. Parents should definitely explain the providers’ tricks to their children. It is also good for children to find out about digital reward systems.

Better protection against the law soon

According to a Bitkom survey, every third 10-18-year-old has experienced insults, harassment or other negative experiences online. The new version of the Youth Protection Act, which came into force on April 1, 2021, provides better protection against hate speech, cybergrooming, violence and online rip-offs. Since then, providers have had to comply with stricter requirements and label games and social media in an age-appropriate way. The goal: to enable children to participate safely in digital media and to further strengthen parents in their upbringing.

Ten recommendations for parents

  1. To be in a conversation: Parents should talk to their children regularly about media consumption. Have them shown and explained to you. Dialogue is the best way to convey what the disadvantages of offering could be. The better the exchange, the greater the likelihood that a child will turn to the parents if they have problems.
  2. Play together: When they play with their child, there is a sense of community. Younger people learn that even with a limited number of rounds, there can be a lot of fun.
  3. Select content with: Games, movies, apps – younger people should not choose them without the help of their parents. The offers should not suit the age of the child more than their level of development. Digital offerings that stimulate creativity are valuable – such as tools for image processing, video editing, programming for the first time.
  4. Negotiate rules: Children feel taken seriously and cooperate better when agreeing on the rules of media use with their parents. The amount of time allowed is often the most controversial point. Do not look too rigid at times and adapt them to the situation in moderation – complete the level in games, watch movies to the end. Important: Adjust the rules as the child develops.
  5. Check compliance: The best rules are useless if the parents do not control them. It’s work. For example, a media diary gives both sides a neutral overview: Children and young people enter what they did, on what device and when in a schedule. Children need a personal approach, such as praise for following the rules.
  6. Exchange with others: For example, if you talk to parents of children’s friends about media use in other families, you can easily spot parallels or differences. In addition, comparable standards can be developed for like-minded friends. Discuss the benefits and risks of social media on parenting nights.
  7. Recognize warning signs: Attention is drawn when children and young people spend a lot of time on electronic media and their nature changes at the same time. This includes avoiding personal contact at home, canceling leisure activities, changing their daily structure – for example, playing until late at night and lying in bed until
  8. endure conflicts: Taking a clear stance on media use, defending values, not giving in to conflicts – that’s how children take their parents seriously. It’s good not to quarrel.
  9. To be a role model: Adults can take a look at themselves: Do you often check the messages on your mobile phone in your free time, at the table or when you play with the children? If so: break the habit and stay credible.
  10. Create analog offers: Although children do not jump at the start when they hear suggestions for activities in the real world, they often end up enjoying the excursions and activities with family and friends, regular appointments such as music lessons or just cycling, ice skating or table football.


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