Help Kids Keep Their Online Information Private and Advertisers at Bay

Jan 28, 2013 9:15 AM ET

Internet Safety for Kids and Families

By Anne Livingston and Lynette Owens

Kids spend a lot of time online.  They go online to find answers for homework, coordinate school projects, share events, play games and watch videos.  While online, they may feel like they are sharing with just family and friends but companies are also listening.  Websites and advertising networks use tracking tools to record what kids and adults do online.  The Wall Street Journal found that advertisers collect this information to build consumer profiles.  These profiles do not include real names but include almost everything else: age, tastes, hobbies, shopping habits, race, interests and location.  Information that kids post and even the information they don’t post such as where they click, what they like, what they’re searching for – is valuable data to organizations who want to sell them something.

The Pew Center found that 81% of parents are concerned about how much information advertisers collect about their kids.  Kids are especially vulnerable since most do not realize advertisers are tracking them or that their information is used to send them the perfect ad.  These ads are not simple banners displayed across the screen.  Companies are developing ads that are interactive and utilize kids’ personal information in the ad itself.

A Teen’s Digital Day

To discover how information is generated and used, let’s look at the day of a typical teen: what she does online, how companies track her activities and how they use this information to market to her: 

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