Raise your hand if you’ve got kids! Raise your hand if you love your kids! Keep raising your hands if you’d share all of their behavioral habits with technology giants all over the world!
Oh, wait. No, no, I wouldn’t do that. The problem is, you likely already do.
In a recent report, an international non-profit law firm is filing a suit against media giant, YouTube. The suit claims that the Google-owned platform unlawfully targeted over 5 million children under the age of 13 to observe their behaviors and report them to advertisement agencies around the world. If true, this is in violation of the UK and Europe’s data protection laws. But the bigger question is, will it actually matter? Sure, they might have to pay a ton of money to the families affected, but they’ll continue to carry on because that data they’ve collected is significantly more valuable than whatever they’ll likely settle on.
Now, I don’t know the first thing about data privacy laws so take what I’m saying at face value, but at what point do we as parents have to step in understanding the direction that technology is taking with our children? Having a 3 and 5 year old, I know all too well the love for YouTube. And sure, it has plenty of valuable content that can help my kids learn more about their favorite topics, however, it seems that the majority of the “shows” the kids are attracted to are usually “silly” in nature and provide no actual ROI on their development. In addition, unless you’re willing to pay for a premium subscription, your kids will be observing ads that likely aren’t appropriate for them.
Now, let’s not be too hard on YouTube as they aren’t the only data-collecting predator out there. I’m sure everyone is aware of the battle with the U.S. and TikTok, which ultimately led to the sale of the company to Oracle. That platform invites the idea that young children can record videos of themselves, oftentimes being borderline inappropriate, and get paid for it. If they’re really good, they can become “influencers”. That word just sounds gross coming out of my mouth. Now look, I’m all for driving our youth to do inspiring things, make a difference in the world, and even become young entrepreneurs, I just don’t think it should come at the expense of ALL of their private data being shared to folks who really shouldn’t be getting it.
What’s the lesson in all of this? Take a moment to read the fine print of the terms and conditions. If not for the apps you grant permissions to for yourself, then at least those that we expose our children to. The long-term psychological damage that these ads can do to our children are irreversible and unfair. As long as technology is what it is, our data will always be bought and sold, however, we can control what we choose to share. Take the time to read the details. Instead of using technology as a pacifier, let’s teach our kids to use it as a learning tool….responsibly. This is an exceptional time to be alive and technology can do significantly more positive things than negative, however, it’s up to us to pave the way for our youth on how to use it responsibly. I’ll do my part, you do yours.
Until next time!