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Series, TV shows, adventure films... Cinema and television fascinate young people. Today, the Internet, smartphones and streaming services provide easy access to television content. This is very convenient for entertainment everywhere and all the time, but it also comes with risks: children and young people can also come across disturbing content or even infringe copyright. As parents, be careful what your child watches, and help them reduce the risks to their safety. This section gives you some good advice on how to do this.

Television: a changing world

Watching television is still one of the most popular activities for children. Almost all children aged 6 to 13 watch it occasionally, and just under half of them watch it every day or almost every day. The younger the children are, the more often they look at it; the older they get, the longer they look at it. Their average viewing time is almost 40 minutes a day. Television continues to attract teenagers as well.

Television content is increasingly being watched anywhere and anytime, and the media for viewing it have become more diverse: smartphones and tablets are being used more than TV sets. In addition, about half of households with a teenager have a TV subscription. In addition, DVDs are being used less and less because of the possibilities offered by the Internet and mobile devices. This is particularly the case among older teenagers, while nearly a third of primary school pupils still watch at least one DVD or Blu-ray per week.

Coupled with television, smartphones and tablets offer additional possibilities as secondary screens, not only for WhatsApp and Facebook or for viewing Wikipedia during quiz shows. More and more secondary screens: Programs involve viewers by asking them to ask questions, write comments, take part in polls and quizzes, or vote. What is entertaining for children and teens, however, is mostly purely commercial. Often the issue of data protection remains unclear, for example when someone sends a selfie which is then shown on the screen. Moreover, secondary screen chats are not always moderated, leaving the field open for offensive and inappropriate messages.

Streaming services are popular

Streaming allows you to watch TV shows, movies, series or listen to music without recording the content on your device. Movies and TV programs are viewed either live (live stream) or on-demand (delayed). Television channels make it possible to find their programmes online free of charge on their websites or applications. Streaming platforms (e.g. Zattoo, Wilmaa or Teleboy) bring together several broadcasters.

Online pay-per-view video libraries such as Netflix, UPC MyPrime, Apple iTunes, Maxdome or Amazon Prime Video usually offer content on demand for a (flat-rate) subscription. Online portals such as YouTube, channels on social networks or media libraries of TV channels provide streaming offers free of charge. Music streaming providers such as Spotify, Napster, Deezer or Soundcloud offer services which are partly free of charge, are usually limited in functionality and include advertising.

But illegal video streaming providers are also popular, as they make series and films available free of charge as soon as they are broadcast for the first time. Illegal pages may link to malware, fraudulent advertising or content not suitable for children. Copyright infringements are also possible.

In addition, more than a third of young people have a subscription to a music streaming service or to films and series. On the other hand, the possibility of putting their own live streaming videos online is still little used by young people.

What are the risks?

Unreliable streaming services are often fraught with cost and privacy traps and other security risks:

A supposedly free subscription can become a subscription trap when it asks for credit card information for identification.
Browser modules (plug-ins), such as Flash (Adobe), have security holes and are therefore easy targets for virus infections or data theft.
Streaming sites that claim to be secure can also be hacked. JavaScript Minder, for example, can be used to secretly harness the computing power of computers and hijack it, for example, to perform cryptographic transactions (mining).

The images on television and the rapid succession of sequences can be disturbing for children under the age of three, who are therefore normally not allowed to sit in front of a screen. DVDs or rebroadcasting programmes aimed at children of this age are more suitable for showing them short sequences. In general, staying too long in front of the television can have negative consequences on health, for example on the eyes. In addition, series in particular have a high addictive potential.

In general, paid streaming services such as Netflix and mobdro have parental control features, but young people who know a little about computers can easily circumvent them. In addition, the Netflix application can be easily downloaded by minors. Until they create an account, it's only a step away. In general, young people are at risk of seeing content in movies or series that could be disruptive to them, such as sex or violence. Children being exposed to violent content can have negative consequences for their well-being and behaviour. Coupled with other personal or social risk factors, frequent television viewing can increase aggression.

Using television as an educational tool, whether to reward or punish, gives it added importance. A ban on watching television may reinforce the child or teenager's desire to watch television anyway.

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