Kids for Sale? Children & Digital Advertising
On 15 September we convened an international panel of experts to consider online marketing to children, its impacts, and what can be done to limit it.
One in three internet users world-wide are children. In the UK, 43% of 11-year-olds who go online say they have a social media profile. Yet virtually none of the services popular with children are ad-free.
So what kinds of ads are children seeing online, and in what volume? Are kids particularly vulnerable to ‘behavioural’ advertising, which tracks users and gathers personal, sensitive data to precision-target ads at users? Is it even legal to serve behavioural ads to young children?
Our expert panel addressed these questions, and considered online advertising to children and its relationship to privacy; children’s exposure to wider online harms; efforts to curb consumerism in a climate constrained world; brand safety; and regulatory efforts to strengthen children’s rights.
This event was hosted by Global Action Plan as part of our Stop Targeted Advertising to Kids campaign. Sign up here to be kept up to date with this campaign.
- Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE
- Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE
- Tim Kasser, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Knox College
- Nandini Jammi (co-founder of Sleeping Giants and Check My Ads)
- Josh Golin (Exec Director, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood)
- Pedro Hartung (Lawyer for Children's and Human Rights at Instituto Alana (Brazil))
- Duncan McCann New Economics Foundation and Representative Claimant in McCann vs Google
Sonia Livingstone (DPhil (Oxon), OBE, FBA, FBPS, FAcSS, FRSA) is a professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Sonia has published 20 books on media audiences, especially children and young people’s risks and opportunities, media literacy and rights in the digital environment, and her new book is “Parenting for a Digital Future: How hopes and fears about technology shape children’s lives” (Oxford University Press, with Alicia Blum-Ross). Since founding the EC-funded 33 country “EU Kids Online” research network, and Global Kids Online (with UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti), she has advised the European Commission, European Parliament, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, OECD, ITU and UNICEF and others on children’s internet safety and rights in the digital environment. She is a #SaferInternet4EU Ambassador for the European Commission.
Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE is an English film director, producer, children's rights campaigner and member of the UK House of Lords. She is the Founder and Chair of 5Rights Foundation, a thought leader in wherever children interact with the digital world, and a frequent speaker on data protection, AI and how childhood could and should be better supported in the 21st Century. In 2012 she was appointed to the House of Lords, where she sits as a Crossbench Peer and was a member of the Democracy and Digital Technology Committee. She is a member of the UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and the Global Council on Extended Intelligence.
Josh Golin is the Executive Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the leading U.S. organisation committed to helping children thrive in an increasingly commercialised, screen-obsessed culture, and the only organisation dedicated to ending marketing to children. CCFC’s advocacy is grounded in the overwhelming evidence that child-targeted marketing – and the excessive screen time it encourages – undermines kids’ healthy development. CCFC organises campaigns against corporations that target children with harmful marketing and advocates for policies that limit marketers’ access to children. Last fall, CCFC’s advocacy led directly to the FTC’s investigation of YouTube, and the record-setting 2019 settlement that forced Google and YouTube to limit data collection and targeted advertising on kid-directed content. CCFC is also the home of the Children’s Screen Time Action Network, and home to Screen-Free Week, an annual celebration where kids, schools, and communities unplug from digital entertainment and spend their extra free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends.
Nandini has been immersed in the world of brand safety & digital advertising since 2016, when she began running Sleeping Giants, the social media campaign that alerted advertisers that their ads were funding hate speech on Breitbart News.
Since then, she has led campaigns that have convinced advertisers to flee Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle. The campaign is also behind the effort to deplatform Alex Jones’ Infowars as well as influential white nationalist figures.
Nandini is dedicated to ending systemic racism in tech and media. In June 2020, she launched Check My Ads to help brands understand where their digital media spend is flowing and redirect it towards media that supports their brand values.
Tim Kasser,Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, USA. He has authored five books and over 100 scientific articles and chapters on values, consumer culture, well-being, and ecological sustainability, among other topics.
Pedro Hartung is a Lawyer, Legal Policy and Advocacy Coordinator and Researcher on Human and Children's Rights at the Alana Institute in Brazil. In 2006 the Institute launched the Child and Consumerism (Criança e Consumo) program to raise awareness of child consumerism and advertising targeted at children. The program has been instrumental in achieving legislative change in Brazil and sparking ‘Movemento Infancia Livre de Consumismo’, a powerful grassroots movement challenging the commercialisation of childhood.
Duncan leads the digital economy programme at the New Economics Foundation, which aims to create a new economy that works for people and within environmental limits. He regularly blogs about digital economy and technology developments. He is also the Representative Claimant in McCann v Google which alleges that Youtube has been processing the data of under 13 year olds without the necessary explicit consent.
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