[Debate] Let children come to me?
Translated from French Laissez venir à moi les enfants ?
In response to an article by Christopher, which supports letting children use Facebook, I would like to bring another opinion to the debate, which is derived from my individual self as well as that of boss at Roxane. Naturally, this position does not mean I do not agree or oppose Christopher’s opinion, but that different opinions exist inside of the company. Long live debate! Long live our differences!
Children lack judgement
Children by nature lack the same ability to use good judgement unlike adults. They lack a filter or sixth sense that has been developed through years of experience, which means we, the adults, must be watchful of dangerous or ambiguous situations.
As a result, children often believe what they hear in real life…or on the Internet. In the following document, the Autorité de régulation professionnelle de la publicité (…) highlights an article published by the International Chamber of Commerce, entitled “La communication de marketing ne doit pas exploiter l’inexpérience ou la crédulité [des enfants ou des adolescents]. Take a minute to look over this document: it seems clear that the scrutiny which is possible for declared, official and planned advertising campaigns is ineffective in the context of the thousands of daily conversations taking place on Facebook between brands and children.
However, let’s be clear, a brand that targets children (which is not wrong in itself) does it primarily to expand its business and not for the sake of children’s benefit. This reality opens up the possibility of a cleavage between brands stated purpose and children’s legitimate expectations, or even those of their parents.
If Facebook opens the door to children, some hope parents will inform their children about the dangers that exist on the social network. I have doubts, however, that this might be overly optimistic thinking. Once Facebook allows children to use the network, many parents will come to think that it is a network “made for children”, “therefore, supervised and monitored”. These same parents may free themselves from the responsibility of supervising and informing their children of the subject.
To be sure, I don’t deny the reality that many children lie about their age, often with parents’ permission and are therefore on Facebook. But I think we must not set a precedent and decide that there is “no problem”. I believe that Facebook and the relevant authorities should put into place serious measures (monitoring and stronger moderation for example) to protect children’s youth and innocence inherent to their age.
Online conversations is not advertising!
Without question there is advertising on social networks, but we go to such places to find above all exchanges, information and conversations. For brands, this is not just advertising messages that are conveyed, they are people who interact with their target, as part of an online conversation.
We, therefore, are not in the classic tandem (content + buying ad space) of projecting a message (an approach which children are able to decipher rather easily), but in a conversation…like with a friend. This switch from pre-determined ads to content and conversation should, in my opinion, be designated. To be clear, a “conversation” between a 9 year old and a 31-year-old moderator on a Facebook page about a dreidle is not an ad, it’s digital influence!
In fact, I fear that the existing rules for advertising are loose and obsolete for digital influence.
Advertising is supervised
For the past 50-60 years advertising has gone largely unchanged. As such, it is supervised, and legislators set its boundaries through a long period of observation and practical cases (even trials). Social networks have existed for the pas couple of years and are, furthermore, in constant evolution. The legal framework and advertisers’ voices are much more free than in the past. Let’s not kid ourselves, the necessary supervision of brands’ voices on social networks will take years, which leaves open a large enough space for all kinds of missteps (dare I say abuse!) against children. I do not think brands that target children will self-regulate their voice. At the end of 2009, on my blog I had underscored various brands’ advertising blunders. These brands will act, therefore, (very legitimately) in a legal context that is allowed. They will have a strong argument: in the majority of cases, the actions and campaigns they develop are done for children’s well being, protection, health or the amusement.
Last, we may be able to note the convergence between Facebook’s intention (generate more revenue, all the while arguing it is providing a “cool” service to consumers) and the brand’s objectives, which target children (create and produce content or experiences truly appreciated by children to boost their bottom line).
Photo credit: photograph by Lars Plougmann
by Emmanuel de Saint-Bon on June 18, 2012
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