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Published 02.05.21

More protection, provision, and participation for children on the Internet

Stiftung Digitale Chancen

The new Youth Protection Act came into effect in Germany on May 1, 2021.

Providers of Internet platforms used by children and young people, must take precautionary measures to ensure better protection against interaction risks. This refers to risks potentially arising from the use of services and contact with other users. A specific precautionary measure would be safe default settings when a new user profile is created. Demanding this the new German legislation is based on the principle of "evolving capacities" in accordance with Article 5 of the UNCRC, i.e. the capacities that develop as children grow older. This allows younger children to start their online experiences in a safe environment. When they are more experienced in using the Internet and specific platforms, settings can gradually be loosened and more freedom can be granted.

However, this presupposes that parents and other adult caregivers also have the necessary media literacy and educational skills to accompany children as they navigate their way through the digital world. Age labels and descriptors for digital media content and services as prescribed under the new Youth Protection Act are intended to provide support in this regard.

In two years, the future Federal Agency for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Media (formerly BPjM) will evaluate the effectiveness of these legal regulations, with the help and participation of an advisory board that also includes young people. Acceptance for youth media protection measures is likely to increase significantly, especially among adolescents, if they themselves can participate in the development and evaluation. The new Youth Protection Act is a major step forward by strengthening the rights of children in accordance to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the basis of the 25th General Comment to the UNCRC and therefore also deserves international attention.