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Published 16.10.20

New law on the protection of minors adopted by the German Cabinet

Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

Last reformed in 2002, the current German Youth Protection Act is no longer adequate to ensure that children and young people grow up well and safely with media.
Whereas the protection of minors used to focus on regulating the confrontation with harmful content, a modern protection of minors in the media must now meet completely different challenges.

The Internet is firmly embedded in the everyday life of young people, enabling them to have a variety of social contacts and access to information, educational and leisure opportunities. However, this is also accompanied by dangers and risks which make effective protection concepts and measures necessary.

The Federal Government is breaking new ground with the draft of a modern law for the protection of minors presented by Federal Minister for Family Affairs Giffey.
For the first time, the personal integrity of young people is anchored as a protection goal. The new law is based on a child rights approach which focuses on the best interest of the child in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and takes equal account of the protection, empowerment and participation of children. Three elements are envisaged for achieving contemporary protection of young people:

  • Protection of children and young people from interaction risks such as bullying, sexual advances or cost traps;
  • Orientation for parents, professionals and young people through uniform age labels;
  • Enforcement of the regulations, also vis-à-vis foreign providers who make particularly high use of children and young people.

After the successful completion of the EU notification procedure, the draft law has now been adopted by Cabinet. In the next step, it will be submitted to the Bundesrat (upper house of parliament), then it goes into parliamentary deliberation and, if successful, can enter into force in the first half of 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown the importance of using the Internet and online services when schools and kindergardens are closed and personal contacts are limited. In order for children to be able to exercise their right to access to the media, their right to education, their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, cultural participation and play also in and with digital media, we need an effective and up-to-date protection of minors in the media as provided for in the draft law.

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