Viewing device screens, whether this is through computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones or smartwatches has profoundly become the norm in in the Western world. Many parents have naturally passed on the integration of the technology in their lives down to their children.
Social media is a product of this advancing technology, and is a fascinating phenomenon that has allowed many people to connect with each other from all over the world through the power of the internet. Social media is a broad medium that features a variety of different content and platforms; ranging from information, entertainment and education which is targeted to different age ranges and cover different topics.
The proliferation of social media has not only affected its commonly associated demographic of adults and teenagers, but it has also, inevitably, affected children as well. Whether this has been for the better or the worse, becomes an interesting debate that normally swings against its usage when you consider that the previous generations of children didn’t even have the choice of using social media. It has been subliminally forced upon the new generation with its growing involvement in society.
Youth Audiences & Social Media
Many brands market to a youth demographic, and are always looking at innovative ways to influence them on social. Youth audiences are spending the majority of their time on these platforms and are easily influenced, due to the fact that they are still learning about their surroundings in this complex, ever-changing environment, and thus will pick up many different cues in order to shape their own identity.
The ideology is that certain social media content should be blockaded from a child’s viewing in order to prevent misguidance, and the primitivity of social media between the early 2000s to the mid-2010s meant that there wasn’t strong integration of child content policies until the FTC (US Federal Trade Commission) intervened more recently in the past couple of years. This is because gradually, as aforementioned, social media has become a solid marketing tool and puts children and youth audiences at risk.
In the case of YouTube, many videos are now featuring sponsorships and multiple advertisements, and tailoring content for users. YouTube has been using search and watch history in order to tailor video and advertising preferences for users via the digital footprint profiling technology known as cookies. This, in a way, would seemingly alleviate the issue of inappropriate content being irrelevantly presented to children on the site if their kids’ watching preferences are documented and saved.
However, at the same time, children’s privacy laws from COPPA omit the data collection of children below the age of 13, so there is a clear conflicting issue when it comes to protecting children on social media. YouTube were fined $170 million USD for participating in the data collection of underage users. Collecting data on children allows content to be targeted to their needs, yet at the same time, it’s illegal. Not collecting data on children exposes them to generic content on YouTube that they can stumble upon that is not suitable for their age range. There is a clear conflict of interest here, and it appears YouTube need to prioritise COPPA law over personalising video recommendation preferences.
Making YouTube a Safer Place for Youth Audiences
In order to work around the issues of children’s growing participation on social media with its platform concerned, YouTube introduced an optional creator label for videos known as “Made for Kids”. Made For Kids does not serve personalised ads as normal YouTube videos do. The issue with this feature though, is that it is highly controversial, and ultimately “optional” to the YouTube creator in question.
With its overwhelmingly negative feedback from users, it’s safe to assume that many creators have ignored the “Made For Kids” label and may continue to label content that might be suitable to kids, to actually not being “Made For Kids”. This can still lead to misleading and inappropriate advertising to children on the platform.
Now YouTube actually has their own dedicated child-focused app, known as “YouTube Kids” however this app is relatively unknown to the general public compared to the general YouTube site. YouTube lacks a YouTube kids social media handle, which is one of the modern core requirements to have when it comes to spreading news or announcement awareness on the internet.
YouTube is just one of the platforms I have highlighted here, and how it is an ever changing landscape that brands and marketers need to navigate to ensure child safety.
Safer Internet Day 2022:
Studying marketing and business at QMUL, I’m passionate about the psychology behind marketing, and how to create intriguing advertising campaigns that have a positive impact on people’s livelihood all over the world. It is so crucial we protect the next generation who are using social media daily for learning, socialising, shopping, communicating and exploring opportunities.
For more information on Safer Internet Day and why it is so important for businesses like Rocket to support the event, visit the official website.