Children seem to have a natural affinity for touch interfaces. Infants learn about the world partly by touching, so it must seem unsurprising but satisfying to them when a device reacts to their touch and plays a video, produces music or provokes a response from a friendly cartoon. It’s no wonder that, for some harried parents, the iPad has quickly become the ‘ultimate babysitter.’
YouTube is an obvious choice for kids. Its infinite range of animated TV shows, slapstick shorts, catchy songs and cute animal videos can keep children from toddlers to teens engaged for hours. The YouTube Kids app was a clear step towards reassuring parents that their little ones would only be exposed to ‘kid-appropriate channels and playlists’. But it seems that not everybody agrees on what might be appropriate content for kids, especially when it comes to online advertising.
A recent piece in WIRED highlights the potential risk of exposing children to the apparently innocuous environment of YouTube:
YouTube is getting away with all the things kid-friendly cable channels such as Nickelodeon can’t… while TV ads are strictly regulated, rules for ads on the Internet and apps are in flux.
Advertising to kids online typically makes use of several nefarious techniques, such as familiar cartoon characters promoting products, ads designed to appear as content, and the direct marketing of junk food. These practices have long been prohibited on TV but advertisers are taking advantage of the lack of regulation on the Internet. This is likely to change over time, with consumer groups already sitting up and taking notice.
But legislation is a slow process. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine that parents, worried by advertising targeting their kids, could decide to take matters into their own hands and turn to adblocking.
Right now the current thin end of the adblocking wedge is tech-savvy millennials, but an unexpected wave of adblocking could soon come from parents. Faced with rising demands for expensive toys and unhealthy fast food, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine concerned parents turning to adblocking to strip ads from their childrens’ online experience.
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