Media institutions: extend youth protection to operating systems

Media institutions: Extend youth protection to operating systems

The state media authorities do not consider an age rating on the Internet for films and games to be sufficient for the protection of minors. Such a regulation is listed in a draft of the planned amended Youth Protection Act by Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey (SPD). The chairman of the Conference of Directors of the State Media Authorities, Wolfgang Kreibig, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur: "I’m not sure whether the approach of age labeling on the net is still as effective as it is for carrier media such as CDs or DVDs. Mechanisms are needed here that go in the direction of technology."The media institutions oversee private broadcasting and media content on the Internet.

Kreibig cited as successful examples solutions already tested by the Commission for the Protection of Minors from Harmful Media in so-called closed systems such as game consoles from companies, where parents can make presettings to regulate their children’s media consumption. He spoke out in favor of expanding the corresponding requirements in the existing Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media. Up to now, vendors have been specifically required to use technical or other means to ensure that children do not have access to certain media content.

"One could also think of the fact that accesses to the network like operating systems must provide something like this. This would be much more effective in combination with the tried and tested age restrictions," stressed Kreibig. "They then play a contemporary role in that they are technically read and not just visible."

Google and Apple, as developers of the two most widely used smartphone operating systems, have already been giving parents the opportunity to restrict their children’s use of the devices for several years on a voluntary basis. They can, for example, prevent the use of some apps and the calling up of adult content, as well as specify the permitted screen time.

A spokeswoman of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs reacted on Thursday thus: One welcomed the fact that the state media institutions developed first ideas for the improvement of the child and youth media protection against the background of the bill. "It is possible that the proposals of the federal states could be suitable for supplementing the new federal law on the protection of minors with appropriate measures at the state level."

At the same time, the ministry emphasized: "However, these technical identification and filtering solutions proposed for the amendment of the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media in the coming years should only be implemented with sufficient respect for network freedom, data protection and European legal requirements."

According to the digital association Bitkom, the media institutions’ move leaves questions unanswered. Chief executive Bernhard Rohleder said, "It is unclear which means are meant here: for example, filters or targeted control of apps? What standards they must meet technically and practically? All of this would have to be thought through in advance and defined in a way that is both legally secure and practical." A blanket demand for a youth protection filter in operating systems causes a lack of clarity.

Rohleder pointed out that most manufacturers of operating systems already offer the option of, for example, parental controls on a voluntary basis. "The problem here is not the technology, the problem is its insufficient use: only 20 percent of children and young people between 10 and 18 who use a smartphone say that their parents have activated the parental control settings on the device," he added.

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