CARU’s Summer Series Wrap-Up: The Need-to-Know Takeaways from our Expert Speakers

Sep 3, 2020 by BBB National Programs

Though we have missed seeing our partners, stakeholders, and colleagues in person this year, the 2020 virtual CARU Conference has given us a great opportunity to engage with our audience throughout the year on some topics of critical importance to those in the child-directed marketing space. 

Now at the halfway point, with the Summer Series behind us, it seems like a good time to reflect on the four sessions under our belt and the key takeaways from our expert speakers. 


A Spotlight on Kids and the FTC

The CARU Conference officially kicked off on May 28 with a keynote from the FTC. Our speaker, Andrew Smith, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, joined Alice Cahn, Founder of Cahnworks and a legacy name in children’s media, for a fireside chat about the changing landscape of child-directed content over the last few years. 

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) remains a priority for the FTC, perhaps now more than ever as both the number of children and the amount of time spent online has skyrocketed due to the pandemic. A recap of high-profile cases such as and YouTube provided invaluable context in both framing and understanding the novel issues and nuances of being COPPA compliant in an increasingly digital world. 

Main Takeaways

  • Platforms with actual knowledge of data collection will be held accountable. 
  • No matter where you fall within the ecosystem (content creator, platform, advertiser, etc.) lack of knowledge is not an excuse for non-compliance
  • There is a need for consumer education regarding both regulation and content as more dynamic changes occur.
  • Rule updates and guidance are helpful resources when navigating relatively new and more widespread issues such as EdTech and online school.
  • The primary question to ask should be “who is your audience” as opposed to merely “are you COPPA compliant.”
  • Keeping children engaged, entertained, and safe are always at the forefront in shaping our understanding of what children are, developmentally, able to process and understand, and there is robust discussion to be had on both ends of the spectrum as far as expanding the age of COPPA protection. 


Social Media and Platforms that Appeal to Children

YouTube made headlines last year with its monumental FTC settlement regarding the proliferation of child-directed content on its typically general audience platform. In this session, speaker Matt Vidal from Google provided a comprehensive walkthrough of YouTube’s new “Made for Kids” designation on their main platform, which notably disables behavioral advertising on kids’ content. While the change was made with the intention of protecting children under 13 online, speakers from content creators Mother Goose Club (Harry Jho) and marketers Spark Foundry (Kate DiRanna) weighed in on how it will affect their budgets and ability to produce content at the same volume. 

Main Takeaways

  • COPPA compliance does not exist in a vacuum, and all parties in the ecosystem from platform to content creator will need to adapt to ensure they’re adequately protecting children in online spaces.
  • Platforms should be mindful that their intended audience may not be the only audience their services attract and anticipate the potential for popularity among users under 13.
  • Viewership of YouTube spiked at the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, with families and kids increasingly turning to the platform for its free, ad-driven content.
  • Marketers are increasingly turning to more creative, content-driven platforms like YouTube and TikTok to reach child audiences with branded content. 


eSports & Online Gaming Panel

A quick yet deep dive into the world of eSports and online gaming in July featured panelists from Venable (Melissa Landau Steinman) and Pokemon (Joel Emans) made it clear that eSports is no longer an obscure concept, but actually quite mainstream and is an innovative billion-dollar industry with a tremendous amount of staying power. The eSports ecosystem is complex with multiple stakeholders and varying levels of structural responsibilities. There are several areas of law that are applicable in eSports including copyright, right of publicity, gambling and gaming, as well as privacy.  

Main Takeaways

  • The presence of school, local and community leagues also require stakeholders to be aware of COPPA, CCPA, GDPR and FERPA. The presence of voice communications, instant messaging, and message forums on applicable platforms also trigger issue of regulatory compliance.
  • Consent remains imperative, both as an aspect of trustworthiness and best practices. Tools such as age gating, verified parental consent, and parent-child account systems with opt-out options are critical. Issues with consent are also applicable to stakeholders in other parts of the ecosystem in terms of showing photos and videos of players and tournament footage.
  • Despite not being an entirely new phenomenon, there are some novel issues within the eSports arena including but not limited to skin betting and the concept of gamer tags as a persona and its subsequent classification as Personal Identifiable Information that will likely benefit from some sort of standardization or self-regulation as the industry continues to emerge.  


Protecting Users of Innovative Mobile Apps

Our speaker from Snap Inc, David Rothenberg, wrapped up the summer series of the CARU Conference with a discussion of how an early FTC consent decree led to their privacy-focused approach to product development across the company. The user experience was at the forefront of this session, driven by an emphasis on cross-team collaboration and comprehensive privacy training when developing apps. Panelists from SuperAwesome (Kate O’Loughlin) and Wunderman Thompson (Rachel Glasser) also highlighted the ethical component of product development and the importance of going beyond the letter of the law so that the user feels secure and informed when using an app, particularly when it comes to the value exchange between app features and the data required to make those features work. 

Main Takeaways

  • The key to implementing privacy by design in any company is to build strong collaboration across teams and to involve more than just the primary stakeholders in a new product to gain valuable insight from varied perspectives.
  • Research has shown parents value transparent engagement when it comes to children’s services; they want to understand why data is being collected and what their child is able to do on the app or website so that they can make an informed choice about whether or not to allow their child to use that service.
  • Ethics are a critical component when marketing directly to children; advertising should not try to trick children or expose them to adult or otherwise inappropriate products. Often a good question to ask is when it comes to marketing to children is “I can. But should I?”
  • Being realistic about age-appropriate design, for example the idea of the child handing the phone to a parent to complete a parental consent flow doesn’t work for all ages, is an important challenge that companies need to keep in mind when designing apps.


Up Next...

Don’t miss the Fall Series sessions of the conference, which kick off with a free session on September 22 featuring an original author of COPPA who will discuss the changes to the COPPA Rule looming around the bend. Join this session to learn how to help your company prepare for the changes and stay ahead of the curve. 

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