The German Youth Protection Act – Amendment of 2020 – BigStage 2020

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11 June 2020 | 13:00-14:30 | Studio The Hague | Video recording | Transcript | Forum
BigStage 2020 overview

Session teaser

The German Youth Protection Act is currently in the process of amendment in order to adapt the legislation to the landscape of new applications and services, the challenges arising thereof and children’s usage habits.



  • Jutta Croll M.A.
    Jutta Croll is Chairwoman of the Board of Stiftung Digitale Chancen there heading the project Child Protection and Children’s Rights in the Digital World

Video record


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>> SANDRA HOFERICHTER: We have a last one for today, and this comes from Jutta Croll. It is also a pre‑recorded. Jutta is on the board of the Digital Youth Foundation and works with The German Youth Protection Act. It is a project for child protection and children in a digital world and she will give us an update on the German Youth Protection Act as is currently in the process of amendment in order to adopt the legislation to the landscape of new applications and services, and she will speak about the challenges arising and children’s habits. So Jutta Croll.

>> JUTTA CROLL: Hello, hi name is Jutta Croll. I’m I Chairman of Digital Youth Foundation where I am managing the project Children’s Rights in the Digital World. Within the next 15 minutes I would like to introduce you to a child youth approach to the amendment to the German Youth Protection Act. Going further we see there are two references for child rights‑based approach, first, obviously is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. And also we have the Council of Europe Guidelines to Respect, Protect and Fulfill the Rights of the Child in the digital environment.

Looking at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we see in the focus the primary principle of the UN Convention, and that is laid down in Article 3, which reads, In all actions concerning children, whether taken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. This is also sustained by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in Article 24.

We have drawn up a triangle of protection, provision and participation based on the UN Convention, and you can see that in these three corners, we have various Articles of the UN Convention that fit under protection, provision and participation. Article 17 is addressing the access to information and most media, but also youth protection in the media. We have Article 32, the right to be protected from child labor, Article 34, the right to be protected from sex or exploitation, Article 19, protection from all forms of violence, and very important in the digital environment, the right to privacy as laid down in Article 16.

On the other hand, we have rights to provision. First to be named the right to education in Article 28, but also freedom of expression, Article 13, and, again, access to information in Article 17. Based on these two cornerstones, we have in the head of the triangle participation. And here the most important is Article 12, the respect for the views of the child and all matters that affect them. We have also the right to freedom of association in Article 15, and the right to leisure, play and culture, also performed with digital media, of course, laid down in Article 31.

I’m coming now to the Council of Europe guidelines. The Council of Europe regularly implements strategies that shall help to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The current strategy was set up in Sophia in 2016. It lasts five years and for the first time in the digital environment is set as a fifth pillar in equal opportunities, participation, life free of violence and child‑friendly justice.

The Council of Europe have set up the CAHENF, and the so called CAHENF IT groups of experts from seven European countries which have drawn up these guidelines. The guidelines were adopted as recommendation from the Committee of Ministers in July 2018, so they have come into force.

Let’s look at the purpose of the guidelines. You see under the first point that they shall guide states in formulating legislation, policies and other measures to promote the realization of the full array of the rights of the child. So we can take this as a reference for new legislation that is necessary in these times of digitization.

It’s a fact, children are growing up with digital media today, and if we have in mind the principle of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, that states and all other stakeholders should act in the best interest of the child, we can take these two pillars, the UN Convention, the principle, but also the fact that children are growing up with digital media as a task to have an amendment to the Youth Protection Act.

Let’s have a look now at certain Articles of the draft amendment. First, I would like to mention Article 10A which names the objectives of the protection of children and young people. And we already have there in the Youth Protection Act that protection includes protection against media, which are capable of impairing the development of children and adolescents. Also we have the protection against media which are suitable for endangering the development of children and young people.

These are set objectives in the German law. But in the new amendment, we have also under three, the protection of the personal integrity of children and young people in their use of media and in the media. And that is due to the fact that this personal integrity might be affected especially by interaction, by contacts that children are performing via media in their use of media. So what can be done with regard to achievement of these objectives?

When we look at Article 24A we can see that there are precautionary measures described, and these follow the principle of duty of care. Article 24 historically addressing service providers, and it lists under point 2 some of these precautionary measures and what they can be. First of all, there is named the provision of a notification and redress procedure by which users can register complaints towards the service providers.

Secondly, it’s mentioned that these reporting and redress procedures should be accompanied by user guidance which is suitable for children and young people. Then we have named the provision of the writing system for user generated audio visual content, the provision of technical means for age verification for user generated content, but also easily to be found references to provide independent advice, assistance and reporting facilities like hot lines or help lines, for example.

Then under 6, parental controls are mentioned, and under 7, the provision of settings which limit the risks that children and young people can face in using diverse media platforms. Last but not least, terms and conditions shall be held in a child friendly manner. So if we have all of these precautionary measures, of course, we also need a body who is tasked with the review and the monitoring, whether these precautionary measures are implemented and maintained in an appropriate way.

So, therefore, the amendment to the German Youth Protection Act suggests to implement a federal agency for youth protection in the media as a new body, and if you look at the list of tasks, you will see under point 3 also the regular exchange of information with institutions active in the media in the field of protection of children and youth in the media is established here.

And that is an approach of dialogic regulation that is also new in this amendment to the German Youth Protection Act. It is further said in Article 17A that the federal agency shall review the precautionary measures that are to be maintained by service providers pursuant to Article 24A.

They should be reviewed and the federal agency shall do so and have a look whether the service provider have set up with voluntary self‑regulation organisations, a so‑called directive. So in this directive shall lay down how the measures should be implemented and how they should be maintained appropriate to children and young people’s needs. There is a fourth pillar of the child rights‑based approach, and that is the participation of children. And it’s laid down in Article 24C that the voluntary self‑regulation organisations shall let children and young people participate in setting up such a guideline so that their concerns are to be taken into account in an appropriate manner.

To summarize this, I would like to refer to this four step approach in regard of child’s rights, and that is as mentioned before the protection of personal integrity in Article 10A. Then we have the precautionary measures following the principle of duty of care in Article 24A. We have a dialogic regulation approach with the Federal Agency for Youth Protection in the Media in Article 17, and last but not least, the participation of children laid down in Article 24C.

This is a very new approach to legislation for the protection of children in the media, and it is somehow based on the approach of the intelligent risk management. Some years ago the German legislative system to youth protection in the media was evaluated and there the term of risk management was coined, which is when it’s done as an intelligent response and approach that consists of a variety of different measures including various stakeholders in their respective role.

If you look at the graphic, you will see that the stage is there with certain roles setting up regulatory framework, but on the bottom of the graphic, you will see the Internet users, the community of users which have their role to play. The system differentiates children in 4H groups, which is children under the age of six years where as much as possible risks should be excluded.

Then we have children age 6 to 9, and children age 9 to 12 where we somehow come from the objective of risk avoidance to risk reduction for the oldest age group children aged 12 and over. So in all of these age groups, we have different instruments in younger age groups we can more rely on technical instruments like that were mentioned under the list of precautionary measures.

For the older children, we would need more instruments like terms of reference, understandable for children but also instruments where they can file complaints in regard of their rights that might be infringed by other users or by uploaded images and so on, so on.

So it needs the whole system to come to a holistic approach to child protection in this new world of digital media and digitalization. Summing up some perspectives, we would say if you base legislation on this triangle of protection, provision and participation this can be referring directly to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Contemporary child protection as said before must account for the fact that the digital world is inseparably linked to the world of children and young people growing up today. We think it’s not necessary to define new rights for children that are aligned with digitization. Rather, it’s necessary to have a look at the Articles of the UN‑CRC and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the rights granted to children taking in account the digitization and the new developments.

There is a general comment to the UN‑CRC which relates directly to children’s rights in the digital environment, and we assume that will be adopted at the beginning of 2021, and it also will support the approach of the German Youth Protection Act amendment. In case you have any further questions to me, please do not hesitate to contact me at the email address provided on my last slide. I would very much thank you for your attention and hopefully you will get back to me with your questions. Thank you so much, and enjoy the EuroDIG within the next days.

>> MODERATOR: So I hope you enjoyed our new format of Big Stages. Tomorrow we will continue during lunch break with another set of Big Stage presentations, and for now, we go into a break until 2:30 PM, and we will be back in all three studios. See you later.