In society there are many things that are prohibited to children under the age of majority such as alcohol, cigarettes, pornography and erotica. However with the creation of the internet, children are now vulnerable to these types of advertising via their very own computer. The technology for today’s parents can be considered a very risky and dangerous invention in regard to their children. From a marketers perspective practitioners are faced to frequently consider ethical dilemmas – some minor, other major. We live in an age of situational ethics that exaggerates and obscures many of those dilemmas. Almost 10 million (14 percent) of America’s 69 million children are now online with over 4 million children accessing the Internet from school and 5.7 million children going online from home Because children lack the analytical abilities and judgment of adults (Journal of Consumer Marketing, 2006). Children are vulnerable to Internet advertising in a number of ways. Understand the nature of the information they provide to advertisers or that the “game” they are playing is really just data collection by an advertiser. Children are gullible and easily persuaded and lack the development to identify to reason and are easily persuaded.
There are no excuses for using the Internet without regard for ethics. And this is doubly true when it comes to targeting children. Austin and Reed give a lucid description of how advertisers should approach targeting children online and provide the ultimate health warning for marketers when they state that “… the likelihood of governmental controls increases if Internet marketers become lax in their ethical responsibilities to children”. Companies such as Snapchat and the brand that use its wide network are at risk of blurring these lines. Snapchat is a successful online; all age access app that has tapped into the consumer likes and wants to achieve millions of users. New insights reveals that snapchat carries a number of risks for marketers in tapping into the wide range of users on the brands platform. In doing so these brands are now at risk of violating the Children’s Online Protection Act (COPPA), with companies such as yelp (A similar audience platform of all ages) prosecuted with fines up to $450,000. Companies participate in such marketing practices are taking a role of the dice. (Social Times, 2016)
It only takes one horribly gone wrong user-generated video or photo for a campaign to be completely derailed, hurting audiences and the brand alike. Imagine one selfie video taken while driving with an auto company’s branded filter making it seem to endorse the behavior, or one video of people wearing a retailer’s clothing while taking a hit off a bong and with that brand’s filter added. The list goes on. (Social Times, 2016)
It appears that the Internet does present some challenges for advertisers who want to be ethical in their marketing practices. Children are a vulnerable group and the immediacy and freedom of the Internet make it difficult for companies to ensure children’s protection on kid‐based Internet sites. Clearly, advertisers have a responsibility to protect children. Further, based on the examples of Web sites of major companies, it appears that the companies try to be responsible in their marketing to children. Ethics initiatives presented by the CARU, DMA, and CME provide important guidelines that these major companies appear to take seriously.
Austin . M & Reed .M , 2006, Targeting Children Online: Internet Advertising Ethics Issues, Journal of Consumer Marketing, MCB UP ltd, http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/07363769910297579
Australian Government, 2016, Particular Privacy Issues affecting children and young People, Law Reform Commission, viewed 16th May 2016 http://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/69.%20Particular%20Privacy%20Issues%20Affecting%20Children%20and%20Young%20People/online-consumers-and-
Clarke .R, Marketing Online: Privacy, Principles, and Guidance (1997), The Direct Marketing Association.
Dando .P, 2016, Does Snapchat Carry Hidden Pitfalls for Brands?. Social Times, April 28
Morrison .K, 2014, Yelp pays $450,000 FTC Fine for COPPA Violation, Social Times, Sept 22nd <http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/katherine-hays-guest-post-snapchat-pitfalls/638589>