FTC’s New Rules on Web Advertising to Kids

Posted on August 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is proposing new rules to better protect kids online, closing loopholes that still permit companies to gather personal information about kids despite a 1998 law that was supposed to prevent it.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

The rules could affect popular features such as Facebook Inc.’s “Like” button, as well as new social networks for playing games on smartphones.  Websites aimed at children already have to get parental consent before gathering information—such as name and email address—from users under 13 years old.  But the original law, known as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, hasn’t adapted to advances in Web technology and marketing.  Those advances have allowed so-called third parties to gather data without parents’ knowing. For example, some iPhone games popular with kids, include the option to join social networks that collect personal data from users without asking for a parent’s permission.  An investigation by The Wall Street Journal in 2010 found that popular children’s websites installed more data-gathering technology on computers than websites aimed at adults.

The Commission is asking for comments and is certain to get many from companies who want to continue to have access to this lucrative data from children.  I hope they get some from parents, too.



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Advertising Internet, Gaming, Podcasts, and Apps Marketing to Kids

FTC Approves Children’s Protection Program I Supported

Posted on February 28, 2012 at 8:00 am

I am very pleased that the Federal Trade Commission has voted unanimously to approve a program I supported to increase the protection of children and teens online.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires operators of websites and online services directed to children under the age of 13, and those who knowingly collect personal information from children to post comprehensive privacy policies on their sites, notify parents about their information practices, and obtain parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any personal information from children.  Companies that have proven systems for protecting children can apply to the FTC for “safe harbor” status, so that any site that uses their protections will be in compliance with the law.

I only wrote to endorse one system, the Integrity Children’s Privacy Compliance Program developed by Aristotle, and I am pleased that the Federal Trade Commission agreed with my assessment that it is a big improvement over current systems to verify parental permission that are easily circumvented by computer-savvy kids.

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Internet, Gaming, Podcasts, and Apps Parenting Tweens

Teach Kids About Advertising

Posted on April 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

The Federal Trade Commission has a terrific new online game for kids that will teach them to understand the difference between someone trying to tell them something and someone trying to sell them something. It’s called Admongo.
The FTC’s message to parents:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, has created the Admongo campaign to help teach kids about advertising. The campaign has four parts:

* a game-based website at Admongo.gov;
* sample ads that can be used in the classroom;
* a free curriculum for use in the 5th and 6th grades, developed with Scholastic, Inc. and
* teacher training videos.

Together, these tools can help teach kids basic ad literacy skills.

As a parent, you can be a valuable partner in this campaign to help equip your kids with the critical thinking skills they need to be smarter consumers. With your help, kids can learn to ask three key “critical thinking” questions when they encounter advertising:

* Who’s responsible for the ad?
* What is the ad actually saying?
* What does it want you to buy, do, or think?

By applying the information they learn through this campaign, your kids will be able to recognize ads, understand them, and make smarter decisions as they navigate the commercial world.

The site also has resources for teachers to help them include media literacy in the curriculum.
The game is not enough to teach kids the difference between genuine opinion and advertising, but if it inspires conversations with parents that are reinforced throughout the week as we model our own responses to the messages in the media, that will remind not only kids but the rest of the family of how insidious these messages can be.
Many thanks to Pat Goslee for showing me this site.

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Advertising Elementary School Parenting

FTC: Movie Industry Fails at Protecting Kids from Violent Content

Posted on December 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission issued its seventh report in ten years on the marketing of violent media to children. While the movie industry is doing better at preventing children who are underage from buying tickets to R-rated films and DVDs, the report shows that there is still a long way to go, especially with the marketing of PG-13 movies.

With respect to PG-13 movies, studios continue to market these films purposefully and directly to children under 13. In its review of marketing plans and ad placements, the Commission found explicit and pervasive targeting of very young children for PG-13 movies. The marketing overview for the DVD release of one PG-13 movie, for example, described the movie’s “#1 Key Demo” as parents 25 and older and kids 8 to 14….The studios’ marketing submissions for the six PG-13 movies showed that all were heavily promoted to children under 13 in advertising on children’s cable networks – “Kids’ Cable” – and through promotional tie-ins with candy, snack foods, kids meals, toys, and other licensed products.

Studios also conducted marketing research on young children, including in one instance children as young as 7 years old. When research results showed that children and parents were concerned about the level of violence in the film, studios sometimes even altered their advertising to make the film appear less frightening, rather than market to an older audience. One studio, for example, copy tested ads for its PG-13 movie on various age groups, including children ages 7 to 9 and 10 to 12. The studio found that 80% of boys in these age groups showed definite interest in seeing the movie but also found that many parents were concerned that the movie was too violent. The written report stated that “parents, in large numbers, complain about the violence in , saying they wouldn’t want to expose their children to that.” The solution proposed by the studio was to “experiment with spots that include less intense action and more humourous/light-hearted moments in order to convince more parents that , saying they wouldn’t want to expose their children to that.” The solution proposed by the studio was to “experiment with spots that include less intense action and more humourous/light-hearted moments in order to convince more parents that will be safe to see. (emphasis added)

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has issued a statement on the report, calling for broader authority for the FTC over the marketing of media to children.

We are pleased that FTC questions the effectiveness of the film industry’s self-regulatory efforts. The report dismisses the MPAA’s much-hyped referral agreement with the Children’s Advertising Review Unit – an agreement the MPAA claimed would address concerns about PG-13 marketing – as “not a meaningful self-regulatory measure.” The report also notes that the MPAA does not consider movie cross-promotions or other marketing tie-ins to be within its purview, despite the fact these techniques are often part of a deliberate strategy to target younger children. In one instance, the FTC found that the target demographic for licensed products was for a violent PG-13 film was boys 3 to 11.

The FTC report also covers the change to the trailer rules I first wrote about in September and the access to “red band trailers” over the internet. Those trailers are shown in theaters only before R-rated movies to assure that they are not shown to children. But online, they are available to anyone.

A new concern in the online venue has been the proliferation of red tag trailers for R-rated movies on websites without adequate age-based restrictions. Mature Audience trailers (for films expected to be rated R- or NC-17) are preceded by a red tag stating that the preview has been approved for “restricted audiences only” and indicating the movie’s rating and rating reasons. Red tag trailers generally contain content that caused the film to be issued a restrictive rating and thus are subject to more stringent time, media, and venue restrictions.

According to the MPAA’s Advertising Administration, red tag trailers on the Internet must be placed behind an age-gate or similar mechanism to ensure that children under the age of 18 will not easily be able to view the material….Five of the six [video-hosting] sites contained at least one red tag trailer for viewing. Two of the websites did not use any age-screening mechanisms before allowing the user to watch the trailers. Even on the three sites that did, the user could circumvent the age gates by hitting the “back” button to the previous page and re-entering his or her age as 17 or older. (footnotes omitted)

The Commission also raised concerns about other issues, including the marketing of “unrated” DVD versions of theatrically released films. I will post additional information about the FTC’s findings on games and music and will also provide updates on any response from the MPAA or other industry groups.

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Commentary Parenting Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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