In the digital sphere, children and young people establish relationships towards real life, fictitious and artificial media figures. This entails risks. The project examines to what extent the German regulation on the protection of minors from harmful media contents is still suitable to protect a free personality development.
Today, children and adolescents who grow up in digital media environments are confronted with a vast variety of media figures. Observing and interacting with actors on the social web, digital assistants and connected toys can be used for entertainment and gathering of information, but is also relevant from the point of view concerning the formation of identity and personality development. The use of digital services enables the development of new forms of social relationships and bonds of trust. In addition to traditional face-to-face relationships, media-based reference partners are included by adolescents in their relationship networks and add to classical socialisation instances such as family and peers. Along this process, media figures offer orientation and counselling and take on a role as mediators of values and desirable characteristics.
The dissertation project asks about the perspective and scope of the existing law with regard to "mediatised and datafied personality development" - How do mediatised relationships appear as an object of legal consideration? And what terms does the legal protection of minors use to frame specific risk potentials?
The social sciences and especially research on mediatisation and media effects offer a number of concepts and descriptive approaches, which focus on relationships of “felt proximity” related to media reception. They deal with processes of identification, idolisation, and the formation of media-specific modes of relationship and bonds of trust. The research recognises the examination of media contents and figures as an important development opportunity for children and young people and emphasises the possible positive role of media use in coping with developmental tasks.
At the same time, the increased sociability of modern media formats is triggering intense discussions within the discourse on the conditions for growing up securely within modern media environments. Particularly through the conscious exploitation of the identification potential of media figures for persuasive and commercial purposes, reference partners of the media come into the focus as a potential source of developmental risks. From this perspective, the mediatisation of social living environments can also be described as a progressive breakthrough of traditional safe spots for growing up with increasingly confusing development risks.
Mediatised Relationships as a Subject of Legal Consideration
Derived above all from the constitutionally guaranteed general right of personality, the legal protection of minors from harmful media follows the mandate to ensure the freedom of personality development. In its case law, the German Federal Constitutional Court carves out the image of an independent personality capable of integrating into social communities as goal of the protected development. This forms the basis for the interpretation of legal norms on the protection of minors from harmful media.
The project asks where and to what extent the potential risks of relationships towards media figures are reflected in the terms of the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV) And what is the scope of protection if the view is supplemented by other regulatory frameworks, e.g. on product safety and privacy?
Integrating the state of research on mediatised relationships offered by the social sciences, the project aims to contribute to the further evaluation of legal concepts framing new phenomena of children’s media use.