How does the German law protect children and teens?
Children and adolescents need appropriate protection - that is why they are subject to specific regulations. Not only are children and adolescents prohibited from the consumption of alcohol and tobacco or going to bars and clubs, but the law also regulates the consumption of films and video games by minors. Its purpose is to protect health and development of children.
What is my child allowed to do and what not?
No. Children and teens are not to smoke or be able to buy tobacco products (cigarettes, shisha/ hookah, cigars, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, etc.). Not even for/on behalf of adults. Furthermore, minors must not be allowed in so-called "smoking bars" (bars inside which people can freely smoke). The restriction is grounded on the Youth Protection Act, which principally differentiates between children (up to 14 years) and teens (14-18 years) -i.e. minors- and adults (18 years and over).
Whether a minor can consume alcohol depends on age. Youth Protection Act principally differentiates between children (up to 14 years) and teens (14-18 years)- who are considered minors- and adults (18 years and over):
Children under the age of 14 are not allowed to buy or drink alcohol.
Teens who are 14 or 15 are allowed to drink beer, wine or sparkling wine only in the presence and with the permission of their parents or another person in a custodial role. Other heavy alcoholic drinks are not allowed.
Adolescents aged 16 and over are allowed to buy and drink beer, wine or sparkling wine also in absence of their parents, but other -heavy- alcoholic drinks are not allowed for them either.
From the 18th birthday, a person is considered an adult in Germany. Therefore, they can purchase and consume any alcoholic beverages freely.
Whether minors can enter clubs or bars depends on age. Youth Protection Act principally differentiates between children (up to 14 years) and teens (14-18 years)- who are considered minors- and adults (18 years and over):
Children under the age of 14 are allowed in bars with an adult. If children under the age of 14 want to go to a club, their parents or another adult in a custodial role must be present.
Teens aged 16 and over can also go to bars and clubs without an adult companion- but must leave by midnight (at the latest).
Only adults, i.e. people who are 18 or older, can visit casinos, nightclubs and other “places with undesirable impact on minors”.
In larger cities, there are often so-called Children Discos or Teen Discos, i.e. special clubs for children and teens, where they can dance and have fun with other kids in their age. Schools sometimes also offer such events. In such spaces, there are always adults present to supervise children- and no alcohol is served.
Watching movies in cinemas is also regulated by law when it comes to minors. If parents or a legal guardian are not present, whether a minor can go to the cinema depends on age:
Children under 14 can go to the cinema, but cannot remain there after 8 p.m.
Teens aged 14 and over are allowed to go to the cinema and stay until 10 p.m.
16-year-olds and older teens can stay in theatres until midnight.
Moreover, children and adolescents are only allowed to watch movies approved for their age range. Look below in the section" Is there a rating regarding movies and video games suitable for minors?" to learn more about content rating and age-restriction in Germany.
Films and video games have a content rating: Children and teens are only allowed to consume movies and video games approved for their age group. Often on the product packaging and in the film ads in cinemas or magazines, one can find the age ranges for which the content is (not) suitable.
The Voluntary Self-Control of the Film Industry ("Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft" or FSK) is the authority responsible for evaluating cultural product and proposing its age rating. They review the content and specific scenes of a film or video game, and then decides for which age ranges the film or video game is suitable. There are 5 ratings: "FSK ab 0", "FSK ab 6", "FSK ab 12", "FSK ab 16" and "FSK ab 18". The number shows the minimum age for which the film or video game is suitable. For example, "FSK 12+" means that children under the age of 12 should not watch the film or video game. "FSK 18+" means that the film is only suitable for adults.
Children often like to do small jobs here and there, because they can earn some extra money. However, in Germany there are laws which regulate how much a child can work according to their age. The laws in question are “Verordnung über den Kinderarbeitsschutz” (Regulation about Protection Against Child Labour“) and the “Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz” (“Law for the Protection of Young Workers”). The following generally applies:
- Children under 13 are not allowed to work. Small and irregular help in family businesses or for neighbours are an exception.
- Children between 13 and 15 are allowed to do “light” work for up to 2 hours a day. However, only if their parents agree and this does not have a negative impact on school performance or their health. Exception: In agriculture, children between 13 and 15 are allowed to work for up to 3 hours a day.
- Children subject to mandatory schooling who are over 16 are allowed to work up to four weeks a year, if their parents agree. They can work several weeks in a row during the summer holiday or on a regular basis for a few hours, for example, delivering newspapers. Adolescents over 16 who are no longer subject to mandatory schooling, may work up to 5 days a week for 8 hours a day.
Employers who do not adhere to these rules are subject to punishment.
If your child smokes, drinks alcohol, or does things they are not old enough to do, try to speak openly with them. Stay calm and matter-of-fact: Tell them about the numerous negative consequences (addiction, illness, etc.) that their behaviour may cause. You can find help at many Family & Parenting Advice centres or the Youth Migration Service (JMD). You can learn more in our chapter "Parenting".