Legal youth media protection and online browser games
With its amendment to the statutory protection of minors published on 08 May 2008, the Federal Government has decided to tighten up the previous regulations on computer games. The Internet is the laws but again not only a step or two, but already half a day’s march ahead.
We would like to explain to you how youth protection is ordered on the internet, especially in relation to online browser games.
By Dennis Andrzejewski
The legal youth media protection
The statutory youth media protection in the Federal Republic of Germany is based on three main pillars. The first pillar is the age restriction of "entertainment software self control" (USK) in cooperation with the highest state youth authorities of the countries. The task of this body is to check all commercially appearing computer games on their content that interferes with the development of adolescents, and to award corresponding age appellation seals. Should the "USK" deny such a seal of approval because the contents of a computer game seems to be threatening or inciting to acts of violence and racial hatred, it is the task of "National inspecting authority for youth harming media" (BPjM) to examine the corresponding game in a youth hazard indexing procedure and, if necessary, to prohibit the submission to juveniles under the age of 18, as well as to impose an advertising and distribution restriction. For adults, the title continues to be acquired. Meets a computer game by its as "socially harmful" In the worst case, content referred to in the Criminal Code (§§ 86, 86a, 130, 130a, 131, 184, 184a, 184b StGB), such as anti-constitutional, inciting or violent topics, is added by the public prosecutor’s office as the third pillar Application for seizure. If this is granted, any possession or distribution of the medium in question is prohibited.
Caution: All measures mentioned so far only apply to media content, in this case computer games, which are available on a data carrier (a CD-ROM, DVD or floppy disk) and distributed in the Federal Republic of Germany. Control measures are limited to content that is violent, pornographic or right-wing. Addiction-endangering game elements as they are accepted and possibly present in strategy and role-playing games of the browser genre by experts are not considered in the youth protection assessments so far.
Browser games enjoy immunity!
Not because they are generally harmless or even content-wise particularly valuable – the opposite is unfortunately often the case – but because the browser games with conventional legal measures can not be mastered. First and foremost, since statutory youth protection provisions as described above only resort to existing media on media. However, online browser games are only available online and their commissioning does not even require a software installation. Thus there is no CD which one with a seal of approval and whose sale one of an age control could make dependent. Simply visit the corresponding website, click on the game of choice and play. Often without a form of registration or even an age query. For this reason, do not work in this game segment, demanded by politicians, youth protection programs to prevent access of children to non-age-appropriate media technically. The games are much too small and simply programmed to respond to such refinements. Apart from that, the programmers, especially of the small and thematically more questionable games, are often even teenagers who want to prove their programming skills and live their creativity. And which nineteen-year-old creator of a successful browser game from South Korea looks after the youth protection regulations of the Federal Republic of Germany?
Anyone who comes up with the idea that you can simply block the pages of such providers, whether privately or publicly – China can also keep a whole nation away from large parts of the Internet – it should be said that the Internet probably several thousand of such sites ready. These hide behind nonsense names like www.y8.com, www.snipurl.com or www.newgrounds.com and in turn link to each of several hundred games of them and that is finally stressed at this point, a large portion not bloodthirsty, not glorifying violence or racist but offers appealing, entertaining and above all harmless fun. Corresponding positive examples can be found in the articles on our online browser game dossier.
However, some online browser games present simply "the little butchery in between", without a framework and without being caught by the watchful eye of the law. Since you can in "The Last Stand" Mow zombie hordes or in "Clear Vision" Experience the everyday life of an assassin who hunts in cute flash animation pictograms. at "ray" the player has the choice if he has the guy who molested his girlfriend shot the head with a shotgun from the neck or rather a knife rammed him in the temples. Even more distasteful and inhumane is when the player in the same game has to decide if he should pee on or kill the homeless person with a migrant background whom he tortured to extract information from him at the end of the torture tour. Of course, the most brutal actions with a particularly high score and the title of nobility "Psycho killer" rewarded.
And who has not found in the previous titles can yes in "5 minutes to kill yourself" Helping a frustrated office worker with suicide. These are certainly particularly drastic examples, but they are freely accessible on the sites mentioned and can also be started without any problems for children and adolescents. And with the technical possibilities grows also the graphic force of these games in between. Shooters classified as harmful to youth, which still needed a powerful computer in the mid-90s, will be running in the browser in the foreseeable future, and initial technical studies on such projects are already online.
So how to deal with these contents?
At a time when the world of computer games is conquering the Internet more and more and children and teenagers are moving in this almost limitless World Wide Web as a matter of course, a protection of minors that functions almost exclusively through prohibitions and restrictions is illusory. He outweighs those parents and educators who are not sufficiently informed, in a deceptive security. The legal protection of minors in Germany works, but new technical developments can never be completely covered by him. A youth protection based exclusively on prohibitions has to go nowhere due to the complexity of the topic. The demand from many sides for a strengthening of the media literacy of children and adolescents seems to be the right way in this context, but everyone should be aware that especially media-educational offers cost and have to be financed by their technical effort. Only through a computer in the classroom no student learns media literacy, many failed attempts can report it. In times of empty coffers and tight staff situation, this is therefore not always easy to carry out. The political demands should, therefore, also be linked to the desire for greater support for sustainable media education projects, especially in schools as the living space of children and adolescents. The practical work of the ComputerProjekts Köln and many cooperation partners with students clearly shows that this work pays off and the students are thankful to be taken seriously with their hobby of computer games.
What remains is once again our appeal to parents, educators and educators to get together with the children and adolescents – who, moreover, are often much more competent in terms of media criticism than we would like to allow them to do – to the computers and game consoles. Let us explain the games and websites that use their children and students. Exchange ideas about the viewed content. Media education must finally become more practical in our media society in order to attract young people to responsible and critical users of these very media.
A goal that has not yet been achieved by any prohibition paragraphs.
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