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Newsletter: Stop Targeted Advertising to Kids | March update

This month: 

  • bankers decrying the attention economy 
  • US congresswomen calling for ‘surveillance advertising’ to be banned 
  • why your salmon is the perfect expression of consumerism 
  • Google and FB trying to get out ahead of regulators



Born Digital: The Story of a Distracted Generation


A new book was released this month charting the tech habits of Gen Z, how tech is impacting their lives, and how we might radically reset our relationship with technology that has hijacked our attention. 


Author Robert Wigley – chair of UK Finance and former EMEA Chairman of Merrill Lynch – joined me and two of Global Action Plan’s youth ambassadors, Emer and Alexandra, to chew over the issues covered in the book. You can watch the discussion here: 



As Bob puts it: 

“Our attention has been hijacked by the tsunami of devices, games and social media which now dominate our lives. This new technology brings efficiency, cost-savings and instantaneous information. But when our attention is the currency being traded by big tech firms, what price are we willing to pay for convenience?” 


Profits from the sale of Bob’s book – available to order here – will be donated to Global Action Plan and other organisations championing young people’s wellbeing. 



Surveillance Advertising 

A brilliant new campaign has kicked off in the US calling for lawmakers there to #bansurveillanceadvertising. Their 90 second video is by a distance the best explainer I’ve seen joining the dots between the behavioural advertising business model at the heart of the modern web and the more visible online (and offline) harms.  


Please add your name to the petition if you can. 



The campaign launched to coincide with the latest congressional hearing at which tech bosses were grilled re their responsibilities to citizens. During the hearing, Democratic Reps. Eshoo and Malinowski announced they are tabling a Bill to “ban this business model of surveillance advertising”, something many campaigners want to see happening in the UK. Their efforts are being supported by Republicans, too. 


It’s incredibly encouraging to see bipartisan efforts to put the business model itself of these platforms in the dock, and a sign of the net perhaps beginning to tighten around the attention economy. 


Of course, the political power of the tech platforms remains huge, evidenced this week by the Biden administration’s continuation of Trump era retaliation against countries taxing tech giants’ revenue.  



Google and FB Blink


Of course, the internet’s two biggest fishes are keen to escape that net, and it’s therefore no surprise to see them trying to get out in front of what may be coming down the line.  


Google has now confirmed it will be ending third party cookies in its Chrome browser (used by 60% of web users) but as this excellent Wired piece explains, any suggestions that this is the beginning of the end of surveillance capitalism are greatly exaggerated. 


For some light relief on the absurdity of our daily battle with “Accept all cookies?” pop ups, check out this wonderful video from Stevie Martin. 


Similarly, Facebook have announced – “ahead of the first draft of the UK's new Online Safety Bill”, as the journalist contextualises it – they will allow users to ‘turn off’ the algorithm determining what they see in their news feed, and instead switch to a chronological feed. As someone who signed up to Facebook in 2004, this doesn’t half sound familiar! I suspect it’s very unlikely this will be sufficient to ward off critics.  



Salmon, smoked 


In a timely reminder of just how pervasive and insidious Consumerism really is, author and campaigner George Monbiot has released a video sweeping from bonnie tartan-based marketing of farmed salmon to the beauty filters on Instagram. As is his style, it’s brilliantly polemic and makes tangible what can sometimes seem a very abstract “-ism”. 


Consumerism is driver at the wheel of planetary collapse and emotional and societal disconnection, and we need more storytellers like George articulating that as only they can. 



Parent stories


To illustrate how online harms and advertising can impact parents personally, we’re asking parents to share their experiences and concerns related to any issues around excessive screen time, advertising, and harms caused to children and teenagers through being online. If you are a parent or guardian please share your own story with us about your child or teenager’s experience online, via this form, and invite any other parents or parent networks you know to share their stories too.


Share your stories


We plan to use the stories to create an interactive timeline which shows the array of different effects advertising has throughout a child and teenager’s life. 


Very best wishes,

Ollie and the Global Action Plan team