As not all legalities are easy to find for families who are new to Germany and/or who do not speak German, we’ve compiled some information on what children and adolescents are and are not allowed at certain ages. As we will be discussing these with students during Advisory lessons in the Secondary school, the following could make for some interesting dinnertime conversation for the family.
Leaving Children Unsupervised
Parents have the legal obligation to supervise their children (“Aufsichtspflicht”). This includes protecting children from harm as well as ensuring that they don’t cause harm to others. This doesn’t mean, however, that parents must watch their children constantly. They are allowed to let them play independently. As there are no age-related rules on this theme in Germany, parents basically have to decide for themselves how much supervision their children need based on their level of maturity, personality, character, and environment. If leaving a child home alone, considerations also include the length of time left alone and where they could go for help if needed.
Cinema: In general, age restrictions to films apply from 6, 12, 16, or 18 years regardless of an adult accompanying a child or not. Exception: Children from 6 years are allowed to see a movie rated 12 if a parent or guardian is present.
Nightclubs and gambling halls: Children under 16 years old are only allowed to go to a nightclub (Disco) when accompanied by a parent or guardian. From age 16-18, teenagers are allowed to go to a nightclub until midnight; longer if they have adult supervision, with a signed paper from a parent or guardian (example “Muttizettel”). Individuals must be over 18 to enter a gambling hall.
Children under 14: 20:00
Children under 16: 22:00
Children under 18: 24:00
(unless accompanied by a legal guardian)
Drugs and Alcohol
Smoking is not allowed until the age of 18; this includes vaping and using shishas, even if using nicotine-free products. Teenagers over 16 may legally buy and consume beer, wine, and champagne. Buying and consuming hard alcohol (e.g. vodka or whiskey) is limited to individuals 18 and older.
Piercings and Tattoos
Generally, parental consent is required for children and teenagers under 18.
Spanking / Corporal Punishment
Corporal punishment, including spanking on any part of the body, is illegal in Germany.
The legal age of consent in Germany is 14. However, it is illegal to engage in sexual acts with a minor under the age of 18 by taking advantage of an exploitative situation. This can include exploiting the victim’s lack of capacity for sexual self-determination.
Attending School (Schulpflicht)
In Germany, students have to attend school for 12 years. Homeschooling is illegal (unless requested by the authorities, or for longer absences for traveling, or similar reasons). Please be advised that German law requires that schools report to local authorities any prolonged or repeated unexcused absences of students enrolled in Grades 1-12. The authorities expect that the FIS will not excuse absences unless there are extenuating circumstances. Please be aware that the German authorities may issue fines to families as a result of noncompliance.
Children over 13 are allowed to earn some pocket money by doing “easy” jobs, like giving private tuition or doing paper rounds between the hours of 8:00 and 18:00, and only with parental permission. Teenagers aged 15 and over are allowed to work between 35-40 hours a week for up to four weeks during the holidays, and to have small jobs now and then during the school year.
Children aged 7 and over are allowed to purchase items with their pocket money. Items costing large sums and contracts (e.g. for mobile phones) are forbidden unless with parent permission.
Limited criminal responsibility starts at the age of 14. Crimes committed by young people (aged 16–18) will always be tried in juvenile court. This also applies to adolescents aged 18-21 who, at the time of the crime, were the equivalent of a juvenile based on their moral and mental development.
Emergency Numbers (English Spoken)
Jugendschutz Nürnberg: Jugend und Sexualität
For a clear overview of laws according to age, see this publication from Franz Paul Verlag.
Special thanks to ISHR for the original compilation in English.
Your FIS Counselors,
Jasmina Dzafic, Primary Counselor
Anita Almond, Secondary Counselor, Grades 6-10
Michelle Ang, Secondary Counselor, Grades 11-12 and Head of Student Wellbeing