COPPA, Advertising & the Internet: How Can You Protect Your Kids?

2019 is a piv­otal year for data pri­va­cy, safe­ty, and inter­net secu­ri­ty. While strides have been made to pro­tect chil­dren from online dan­gers, there is still much work to be done. Larg­er tech com­pa­nies with a big foot­print are hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time putting process­es and poli­cies in place that ensure the safe­ty of young viewers.

The pub­lic and gov­ern­ment are demand­ing more action to bring big tech into com­pli­ance and ensure that apps tar­get­ing chil­dren meet cer­tain safe­ty and pri­va­cy stan­dards. Here’s what you need to know about the lat­est leg­is­la­tion and steps to pro­tect our children.

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COPPA

COP­PA, or the Children’s Online Pri­va­cy Pro­tec­tion Act, was passed in 1998 and insti­tut­ed in 2000. It was cre­at­ed to restrict the way web­sites and online appli­ca­tions col­lect infor­ma­tion in two main ways:

  • Ensur­ing that web­sites and video stream­ing apps can’t col­lect per­son­al infor­ma­tion from chil­dren 13 or younger with­out their par­ents’ consent.
  • Pre­vent­ing web­sites and apps from shar­ing infor­ma­tion about chil­dren out­side of the web­site or app’s imme­di­ate orga­ni­za­tion with­out parental consent.

The law was also designed to keep any infor­ma­tion received from chil­dren high­ly secure and com­plete­ly con­fi­den­tial. Com­pa­nies must also delete the infor­ma­tion after a spec­i­fied time peri­od and pro­vide imme­di­ate access to the par­ents of the chil­dren if request­ed. Last­ly, the law empow­ers par­ents to stop the col­lec­tion or usage of their children’s infor­ma­tion if they choose.

While the leg­is­la­tion itself was a giant leap in the right direc­tion when it comes to pro­tect­ing the online pri­va­cy of chil­dren, tech giants con­tin­u­al­ly fail to meet COP­PA guide­lines, and many remain in vio­la­tion of the rules to this day.

It’s a chal­leng­ing prob­lem to solve, but instead of attempt­ing to solve it and become com­pli­ant with COP­PA, some com­pa­nies are ignor­ing and aban­don­ing the leg­is­la­tion alto­geth­er by chang­ing their adver­tis­ing stan­dards. It all boils down to the almighty dollar.

Advertising Monetization is Nearly Impossible to Regulate

Adver­tis­ing is the main form of mon­e­ti­za­tion that most video plat­forms use to sus­tain their busi­ness and gain prof­itabil­i­ty. The prob­lem is that it is dif­fi­cult to reg­u­late which ads show for which con­tent (and which audi­ence). One major video plat­form recent­ly announced that it plans to end tar­get­ed adver­tis­ing on uploaded videos with con­tent that is like­ly to be con­sumed by children.

It sounds great right? But who deter­mines which videos and what con­tent are geared direct­ly toward chil­dren? For exam­ple, a video about con­struc­tion equip­ment or heavy machin­ery might appeal to both adults and chil­dren alike. 

There are plen­ty of gray areas that blur the lines of when and where to use tar­get­ed adver­tis­ing and where to omit it because it may be viewed by a young audi­ence. These fuzzy bound­aries will only hurt the com­mu­ni­ty itself and enable mon­e­ti­za­tion for the con­tent cre­ators across the board — not just for kids’ con­tent. Unless some­one per­forms count­less hours of man­u­al review to know which ads are appear­ing where, adver­tis­ing is sim­ply not a viable option for video apps for kids. To extend that state­ment even fur­ther, adver­tis­ing to kids pro­motes com­mer­cial­ism and can encour­age var­i­ous unwant­ed behaviors.

Taking Real Steps to Protect Young Viewers

So how do you know which kids’ video apps you can trust? Our team at Jel­lies put togeth­er a list of ques­tions to ask before you down­load a video app to ensure that your child’s infor­ma­tion stays safe, and they are pro­tect­ed from inap­pro­pri­ate adver­tis­ing tactics.

At Jel­lies, we nev­er include adver­tis­ing in our videos for many rea­sons, including:

  • Safe­ty and pre­ven­tion of the wrong con­tent appear­ing to kids
  • Com­bat­ting commercialism 
  • Pre­vent­ing unwant­ed behaviors

COP­PA and its con­tin­ued evo­lu­tion to keep up with chang­ing tech­nol­o­gy are crit­i­cal in the effort to pro­tect young view­ers. As a par­ent, you can help by con­duct­ing prop­er research before let­ting your child explore an unknown app or tech­nol­o­gy. Keep­ing our chil­dren safe is a team effort.