Why don't you stop using the internet

At home in the digital world: young people and the Internet

Play games, exchange ideas on social media channels, listen to music or watch videos. There are many ways to use the Internet. Jakob, Jonathan and Marie-Sophie tell how often they are online and what they do online.

Many young people spend a large part of their free time online, which is why internet access with a fast connection and the right device are important to them. The classic computer or laptop is becoming less important. While four out of five young people still had their own computer or laptop in 2013, according to the JIM media study in 2017, the figure was only 69 percent. 97 percent of 12 to 19 year olds have their own smartphone. Even of the youngest (12 and 13 years old), 92 percent already use their own device and the associated apps.

Jacob, 14

© Andrea Gehwolf

Jakob only recently got his cell phone. He mainly uses WhatsApp or YouTube. On the video platform, he watches film trailers or “Let's Play” videos, in which the playing of a video game is filmed and commented on. He prefers to play on the Playstation himself rather than on the mobile phone. He thinks communication via WhatsApp is great because it is so flexible.

However, he also sees a disadvantage: “Sometimes you can't be sure that you are really chatting with the person with whom you started the conversation. It could also be a friend who makes fun of you. ”During the week, WiFi at his home is limited to one and a half hours per day. Sometimes that's a little too little for him. Above all, it annoys him when he breaks the connection and he cannot continue a WhatsApp chat. But he basically thinks the restriction is okay.

Do you have the feeling that you have to be available all the time?

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How do you see data protection? Do you have any concerns

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The most popular apps among young people

The exchange with friends and family and the use of social media applications are top priorities for young app users.

When asked about the three most important apps for them personally, nine out of ten young people named the communication app WhatsApp. Other significant offers are Instagram (39 percent), Snapchat (34 percent) and YouTube (32 percent). Facebook, on the other hand, has lost its popularity. Only 13 percent of 12 to 19 year olds count the app as one of the indispensable applications.

Marie-Sophie, 12

© Andrea Gehwolf

Marie-Sophie is not at all interested in Facebook: “Facebook is totally out for us. This is boring. Especially after the Facebook scandal, you got an even more negative impression of Facebook. ”In general, she uses her cell phone very responsibly. Your Instagram, Musical.ly, and Snapchat accounts are private. To see their photos, you have to send a request first. Since a friend's Instagram profile was hacked, she's been extra careful with her personal information. At Marie-Sophie's school there is a social worker who is familiar with the subject and whom the young people can turn to.

What do you do when you are online?

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Do you look immediately when the cell phone "plings"?

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How do you know to be careful on the internet?

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Parents and experts are critical of the long media usage time and the impulse to have to be online all the time. The fact that young people generally have unrestricted and uncontrollable access to all network content is also worrying. However, the majority of parents find it difficult to teach their children rules for using smartphones. According to a study carried out in 2015 by a health insurance company and the German Center for Addiction Issues, one in five 12 to 17 year olds reacts restlessly and irritably to restrictions on Internet use.

Jonathan, 14

© Andrea Gehwolf

Jonathan has had his cell phone for about two years. He is one of those young people who spend comparatively little time online. With him it's about half an hour a day. Usually he doesn't just go online for fun, but uses WhatsApp when he wants to meet up with friends or asks in his class chat if he doesn't know his homework. Sometimes he watches videos on YouTube. Mostly these are videos about video games that Jonathan is interested in.

If there is a specific work assignment or he needs information for a presentation, he also uses the Internet for school. Cell phones play a role in his circle of friends, of course, but they don't predominate. Real contact with his friends is definitely more important to him: "It makes a big difference whether you sit at home alone and swipe around on your cell phone or do something outside with your friends."

What is maybe not so great about using cell phones?

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Who would you turn to if you had problems?

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Indispensable: media literacy

The Drugs Commissioner of the Federal Government Marlene Mortler explained to the figures of a study by the Federal Center for Health Education on Addictive Behavior in 2015: “Today we have access to the Internet from almost everywhere. This opens up countless exciting possibilities, but also creates new challenges. Young people in particular have to learn to use the network in a self-determined manner and to the right extent. Otherwise there is a risk that there will be no more space left for real life besides virtual life. In the meantime, around 270,000 young people are dependent on Internet applications, around twice as many as in 2011. One of our central tasks is therefore to exemplify media competence and to actively convey it. "


As the reach of social media applications increases, so does the phenomenon of cyberbullying. In the 2017 JIM study, one in five young people stated that false or offensive content about themselves had already been circulating on the Internet or social networks. Boys and girls are equally affected. Bullying occurs most frequently in the 16- and 17-year-old age group. In addition to trust teachers and school psychologists, help is provided by the Alliance against Cyberbullying, the Juuuport advice portal, the number against Kummer and the website of the Federal Conference for Educational Advice.

Andrea Gehwolf
works as a freelance writer in Munich

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