Children and cyber security - Do not be afraid of the WWW

We live in a multimedia world - with all its advantages and disadvantages. Above all, the Internet offers a variety of information that is hard to miss. So that children do not lose themselves on the net, they must learn to handle the flood of information competently and creatively. According to a study (KIM: Children and Media 2005), over half of children between the ages of 6 and 13 have already had Internet experience, and two-thirds of them are online regularly and enthusiastically. Fortunately, some of the most visited sites have special children's websites on the net, especially children's web sites. Frequently, information is sought there for the school. Parents are often concerned about this internet enthusiasm.

What parents can do

If employment with computers is still considered useful, there are major reservations about the Internet. Rightly so! Because if the children use the Internet without reflection and without orientation, they can come across sites that glorify violence, distribute pornographic or right-wing extremist content. Protection programs, with which parents can turn off unwanted pages - at least in part - are available! Unfortunately, these programs - the study also found - hardly installed on a computer used by children.

Mediate media literacy, but how?

Our children grow up in a multimedia society, for granted. Good if you learn early on how to handle the media competently. Adults are required to adapt their education to these requirements: they should convey norms and values ​​for the proper use of the Internet, to familiarize children with the limits and dangers, but also its potential. Because the Internet does not only offer sex and violence. There are many opportunities for children to learn, to be creative and to obtain important information.

Parents who demonize the Internet or react with hostility to technology easily become spoilsport. If they ban the Internet without even having much idea, their children can not take them seriously. It is therefore better to share the interest of the children and to "join in" once; also at the price, that they occasionally have to admit their ignorance. As a consolation, children also do well once they can teach their parents something.


Of course, the Internet should not become the all-ruling all-day activity. In the daily routine also other play and learning incentives should be offered. And social learning in the game with other children should not be neglected. Talk to your child about what's allowed on the net and what's not. Establish common rules, especially regarding usage times and content.

Age-appropriate periods of use

Many parents wonder how many times and how long they can let their children on the Internet without harming them. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs gives tips for different age groups:

  • Children up to 3 years: The virtual worlds are perceived only marginally at this age. Tip: It's fun, sometimes for about 5-10 min. to make small discovery tours on the PC, eg playing with the keyboard, listening to music or viewing pictures.
  • Children from 4-6 years: The interest in learning and play programs is growing. Joint (!) Trips on special children's pages help to understand the complex media world. Tip: not more than 30 minutes daily.
  • Children u. Teenagers 7-11 years old: The Internet can now be of such great interest that children want to spend hours with it. Parents should make sure that the time spent on the internet is in a healthy relationship to other activities. Tip: On special days may also be played or researched longer. But: Do not leave your child alone at first. For example, help with information gathering. With age, the child can search for more complex content himself.
  • Young people from the age of 12: The young people are mentally able to use all the possibilities of the network, for example to record virtual contacts, to pull music from the net, to copy films. The temptation is great to dive afternoons into this fascinating "parallel world". Tip: Try to understand and imagine what it's like to "devour" a thriller on an afternoon, for example. As long as friends, school and family life are not neglected or only occasionally neglected, there is no need to worry. But stay on the ball and let yourself be shown what your child is interested in.

Lost in the net?

If parents find that their children spend their free time almost exclusively at the computer, hardly have any friendships and have no other hobbies, it is time to research the cause. Mostly the social withdrawal is not caused by the media consumption, but vice versa: For lack of good friends and interests, teenagers "retire" into the net and build up a parallel, virtual world. The withdrawal can be a cry for help, to which the parents should react sensitively.

Anonymous acquaintances

Online chats not only offer users the opportunity to present themselves, but also to hide and to slip into a new identity. Children and adolescents can not assess whether their new acquaintance includes the person he claims to be. Therefore, alert your children to the dangers that can result from meeting an unknown chat acquaintance. The transfer of your own phone number and address to anonymous WEB acquaintances should be taboo.

No witchcraft: more security on the computer

Lurking on the Internet many dangers. And children are often helpless in their naivety. In order to make your computer child-safe, you should spend a bit of time with the safety-related possibilities of your PC and "maintain" it regularly:

  • Updating The software manufacturers are constantly providing up-to-date program updates that increase the security of the PC. Therefore, regularly update your software, especially operating system, browser, e-mail program, virus protection (daily!).
  • Setting your browser to suit children Set up a suitable children's site as the start page in the browser (eg or the search engine In the Internet explorer, the desired start page is entered in the "Extras" menu under "Internet options".
  • Filter programs Create a safe space for your child by creating positive lists of recommendable children's activities: in the menu of the Internet Explorer under "Tools / Internet Options / Contents", activate the "Content Advisor" and enter in the "Agreed sites" tab all the addresses that contain the Child is allowed to visit. For older children and adolescents are filter programs that block problematic offers from the network (blacklists). Incidentally, offering good programs is not easy for the filter manufacturers. Because even they are confronted with the speed and complexity of the Internet. Currently it can be assumed that the modern filter systems achieve good results in the field of sex / pornography, but in the area of ​​hatred and violence still have clear defects. Since April 1, 2003, it has been provided by law that the suitability of filter programs will be examined by the Commission for Youth Media Protection (KJM).
    Important: Since not all questionable contents can be captured by the current filter systems, the teaching of media literacy by parents and teachers plays a central role.
  • Security software against 0190 dialers and viruses Children are curious and often they can not distinguish advertising from editorial content. If pop-ups and banners invite you to download them, you can safely click on "Yes" and install viruses and dialers on your computer. Only an excessive telephone bill or supporting computer programs draw attention to the unpleasant visitors. Several direct phone providers offer their own security software and dialer locks to protect against it.
  • E-mail Data protection is not very important in the net. Often one is asked to give name and address; with the result that you are bombarded with spam and advertising. Therefore set up your child two e-mail addresses. An official for the registrations and registrations that they manage and control themselves, and a second one (with a fantasy name) that the child uses to e-mail.

by the way

Most viruses, worms and Trojans are distributed via e-mail. For this reason, when entering personal data on the internet, make sure that you do this with encrypted, secure connections (-> "https" in the browser bar). Also, teach your child to open e-mail attachments only if they know the sender.

Source: Federal Ministry of Family Affairs

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