Teaching children how to use the media

Updated: 08.06.2022 – 20:17

digital diplomacy
Children and the media: Teaching children how to use the media

Photo: Imago Images / Westend61

We have helpful tips for you on how to better reach your child and their media use.

Offspring often really cling to a cell phone or tablet? Here you can find out how parents can defuse conflicts and teach their children how to properly use the media.

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

Gamble, chat, watch

Surveys indicate that the majority of parents in Germany are concerned about their children’s use of the media. Many feel overwhelmed when it comes to regulating consumption on smartphones, tablets, and game consoles. Hardware has moved into the home in just a few years, and there’s little experience and knowledge from long-term studies of how to use apps, games, and software – but it’s more controversial.

And learn a lot along the way

But how do parents prepare their children for digital media? Stiftung Warentest brought educational specialists and psychologists together and researched specialized information – and extracted ten recommendations for parents from everything. (You can find these below) First of all, you have to relax. There is a lot of good in the digital world. Children learn for later life. They teach each other word processing, presentation, and arithmetic programs along the way. Creative minds create videos, produce podcasts, and open their own channels. They use messaging services to practice maintaining communications and organizing meetings. On the other hand, teens can also face images of violence in the media, pocket money and data theft, questionable body images, fake news, dirty storms, cyberbullying, online grooming, and harassment by strangers.

Fifa, Minecraft and Call of Duty

Teens should learn the ability to use digital media in a sensible way just as they would to eat healthy food – from their parents. Surveys conducted by the media authorities in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate with Südwestrundfunk show how important this is: almost every family with children has a smartphone and Internet access. One in three children aged six to seven used the internet in 2018 – an average of 15 minutes a day. Among the 10- to 11-year-olds, 81 percent were online. Usage time was 51 minutes. More than 90 percent of 12-13-year-olds own a smartphone in 2020. In addition, laptops, game consoles, and tablets are often found. Problem: Many parents don’t really know what their kids are doing online. According to surveys, the games are very popular with many primary school children – football Fifa and construction game Minecraft top the list for boys, and Sims are for girls.

And WhatsApp welcomes 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 the series on Netflix and Co.

The accusations are unfair

It is not fair to blame children and young adults when they are drawn to computer games, social media, and videos. Presentations are designed to captivate. Service providers can then collect data, post ads – and make money. Parents should definitely explain the tricks of the caregivers to their children. It’s also good for kids to discover digital reward systems.

Better protection from the law soon

According to a survey by Bitkom, every third of 10-18 year olds have experienced insults, harassment or other negative experiences online. The new version of the Youth Protection Act, which went into effect on April 1, 2021, provides better protection against hate speech, online grooming, online violence and theft. Since then, providers have had to stick to stricter requirements and label games and social media in an age-appropriate manner. Objective: To enable children to safely participate in digital media and to 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. Ask them to show it and explain it to you. Dialogue is the best way to communicate what the negatives of presentations can be. The better the exchange, the more likely the child will turn to parents if they have problems.
  2. Play together: When they play with their child, there is a sense of community. Little ones learn that even with a limited number of rides, it can be a lot of fun.
  3. Select content with: Games, movies, applications – young people should not choose them without the help of their parents. Offers should not be more appropriate to the age of the child than to his level of development. Digital offerings that stimulate creativity are valuable – such as tools for image processing, video editing and programming for the first time.
  4. Negotiation rules: Children feel taken more seriously and cooperate better when they agree on media use rules with their parents. The amount of time allowed is often the most controversial point. Don’t look too hard sometimes and adapt to the situation in moderation – complete the level in games, watch movies to the end. Important: adjust the rules as the child develops.
  5. Compliance controls: The best rules are useless if parents don’t control them. This is a job. Media diaries, for example, give both sides a neutral overview: Children and young adults enter what they did on what device and when into a timeline. Children need a personal approach, such as praise for following the rules.
  6. Exchange with others: For example, if you talk to the parents of children’s friends about media use in other families, you can easily spot similarities or differences. In addition, similar criteria for friend circles can be developed among like-minded people. Discuss the benefits and risks of social media at parenting evenings.
  7. Recognize the warning signs: Pay attention when children and young people spend a lot of time with electronic media and their nature changes at the same time. This includes avoiding personal contact at home, canceling recreational activities, and changing their daily structure – eg playing until late at night and lying in bed until noon.
  8. Endure Conflicts: Taking a clear position on the use of the media, defending values, not staying away from conflicts – this is how children take their parents seriously. It’s good not to rant.
  9. To be an example: Adults can look at themselves: Do you often check messages on your mobile phone in your spare time, at the table or when playing with children? If so: Break the habit and maintain your credibility.
  10. Create analog displays: Even if kids don’t jump at first when they hear suggestions for real-world activities, they often end up enjoying trips, activities with family and friends, and regular dates like music lessons or just a bike ride, skateboarding, or table football.


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