Want your teen or tween to be targeted by ads selling sex, guns, or diet pills? It sounds too terrible to be true, but unfortunately, it’s happening, and it appears Facebook is to blame.
Advertising to All
How are these risqué ads appearing in kids’ Facebook feeds? According to The Wallstreet Journal, Facebook used to block ads for users under the age of 18 by default, but that changed in 2012. Now, ads target all users unless otherwise specified by the advertiser. These ads are making Facebook lots of dough—about $7 billion last year—but at the expense of its youngest users’ privacy and safety. Just ask 14-year old Erica Lowder whose picture ended up on display to other Facebook users, including much older men, after clicking on an ad in her newsfeed. Other cases of ads gone bad include the marketing of diet pills to teens and the advertising of gun holsters to young people who just happen to live in crime-ridden areas.
Tweens Also Susceptible
Facebook’s advertising debacle isn’t just a teen problem either. Though the social network’s minimum age requirement is 13, younger users have (not surprisingly) found a way to bypass this restriction and are joining the site in droves. According to a 2011 Consumer Reports Survey, 7.5 million tweens have an active Facebook account, meaning they’re also exposed to adult-themed advertising among other social media threats.
The Need for Online Monitoring
Deleting your child’s Facebook account (as tempting as it sounds) may not fix the problem. Why? Because Facebook isn’t the lone perpetrator. Name a social media network—or any website for that matter—and you’re likely to find someone looking to make money by peddling goods to consumers, including the youngest among us. Dr. Allen Kanner, co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says “it’s becoming almost impossible to function as a child without the constant barrage of advertising.”
Unfortunately, he’s right— there’s no easy way to keep kids from seeing ads, but you can and should monitor their activity on social networks and other websites. The more informed and aware of what your kids are exposed to online, the better equipped you will be to address the issue by asking the right questions and starting helpful conversations.
Note: The opinions above belong to Melissa Maypole, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Qustodio. Download Qustodio’s free software to begin managing, monitoring, and understanding your kids’ online media consumption today.
Friend or Foe? The Rise of Online Advertising Aimed at Kids http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/digital-online-advertising-children-privacy
Nude Webcams and Diet Drugs: The Facebook Ads Teens Aren’t Supposed to See http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304703804579381552745011772