Can we protect children from deceptive online advertising?

blogpost_ADS   The iPad generation     It’s a fact: children love technology! If you take a look around at restaurants and public areas, you’ll see dozens of children and toddlers happily playing with their parents’ tablets or smartphones, taking pictures, launching apps as if it they were born with those devices in their hands! Companies all over the world smelled the huge opportunities associated with this trend and daily fight over their piece of the pie… Tablets for kids, online services, children apps…the market grows bigger and bigger every day! No wonder so many parents feel powerless, as if they were trapped in a twisted game they don’t fully understand. That’s why latest accusations against brand-new content apps Youtube Kids created a big buzz in the United States (link). A group of consumer advocates claims that the service targets children with unfair and deceptive advertising. The news struck parents as a cold shower…especially considering Youtube had launched its kid-targeted channel on February marketing it as safe and child-friendly.   A tough choice   Isn’t it interesting? While TV kids’ channels are submitted to strict ads regulation, online channels such as Youtube are confronted with much fuzzier rules when it comes to children advertising! Yes, we all know it. Internet evolves at an incredible speed and noone can really slow it down. But what happens when these changes affects ethic behaviours? How should parents react? Being aware of the risks associated with free online services is a very good start. Next comes the hard choice: paid ad-free content vs free ad-supported content. Either parents choose to pay to protect their child from advertising, either they don’t and accept the fact their child might be influenced by targeted ads. Research has often shown that young children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to judging the credibility of commercial ads. Their cognitive brain hasn’t learned yet to make a clear difference between truth and intention to sell. That’s why popular companies such as Netflix chose the subscription model, offering parents a quality and ad-free service. Youtube Kids opted for an ad-supported model, flaunting its belief in equal opportunities for all families. Fair enough, but does it have to mean that commercials can be deceptive to both children and parents?   When ads become insidious   It’s happening right in front of our eyes: online ads are getting more targeted and discreet. The border between advertising and content is thinner than ever. With youtubers families getting paid to film their children play with branded toys and unbox all sort of products, it’s getting harder to tell the difference between commercials and entertainment. Especially considering that these videos often fail to disclose the commercial nature of their content. As a parent, is there anything you can do to protect your child? Of course you can choose subscription services over free ones. If you can afford it, you’ll sleep peacefully knowing your child isn’t unfairly manipulated. But If you believe into free services no matter what the consequences are, teaching your child to understand advertising can be a solution. It takes time but you can encourage your child to question what he just saw and what the advertiser is trying to obtain. It can help but it also requires you recognize an ad even when blended into entertaining content. In the United States, the FTC (federal trade commission) launched Admongo, an online game that helps children understand how advertising works. At Pili Pop we chose subscription over advertising because we want children to experience a full immersion into English and enjoy a constantly enriched content. And you? Do you care for in-app advertising? What do you do to keep it under control?

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