January 2019

Facebook can't be trusted with kids; Apps Shouldn't Play Kids; Webinar: Commercialism and Kids' Tech; Featured Resource; Thanks to our donors!; Screen-Free Week; Recommended Reading

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In this issue:

  • Facebook can't be trusted with kids
  • Apps Shouldn't Play Kids
  • Webinar: Commercialism and Kids' Tech
  • Featured Resource
  • Thanks to our donors!
  • Screen-Free Week
  • Recommended Reading

Facebook can't be trusted with kids

One year ago, we called on Facebook to discontinue Messenger Kids, the first-ever social networking app for 5-year-olds, because we were concerned about the risks it posed to kids' healthy development. Now, in light of disturbing new reporting revealing that Facebook for years intentionally tricked children into spending money, we're renewing our demand: Mark Zuckerberg must cancel Messenger Kids, and all other child-targeted Facebook operations, immediately. 

The Center for Investigative Reporting revealed last week that from 2010 to 2016, Facebook knowingly and intentionally manipulated kids into spending real money on virtual games. Some kids unknowingly spent thousands of dollars over the course of just a few weeks. Facebook referred to these kids as "whales," a casino-industry term for high rollers. The company refused to refund these accidental purchases, and even encouraged game developers not to put payment verification and other safeguards into their games, because defrauding children was so good for revenues. (During one three-month period, kids spent more than $36 million on Facebook games.) 

Facebook wants parents to think that Messenger Kids benefits kids and families, but it's clear that Facebook doesn't care about anything except for their bottom line. As we wrote to Mark Zuckerberg this week, CIR's reporting shows that Facebook is willing to cause material harm to kids and families in their quest for profits. Any company that views children as cash cows to be milked for profit is unfit to make products for kids – especially when that product gives a company access to children's relationships and private moments, as Messenger Kids does. 

Join us and tell Mark Zuckerberg: cancel Messenger Kids now!

Apps Shouldn't Play Kids

Parents should be able to trust that apps recommended "for kids" are truly made for children – but right now, they can't. In fact, the Family section of Google's Play Store routinely recommends apps that illegally collect children's data, interrupt gameplay with deceptive advertising, pressure kids into making in-app purchases, and even model harmful behavior. We're asking the FTC to take action, but kids and families can't wait: Google needs to clean up their act now. Thanks to the help of our friends at MomsRising/MamásConPoder, more than 13,000 people have signed onto our campaign asking Google to adopt CCFC's Kids' App Store Standards – simple rules that require a human review of each app and ban in-app purchases, unfair advertising, and illegal data collection. Join us and tell Google: apps shouldn't play kids!

Webinar: Commercialism and Kids' Tech

One of the most pervasive, troubling concerns about kids' screen time is that most child-targeted platforms and media are rife with overt and covert advertising. On March 4, join CCFC founder Dr. Susan Linn and Executive Director Josh Golin to learn how apps, games, and digital devices are built from the ground up to benefit marketers at the expense of children. Susan and Josh will discuss kids' developmental vulnerabilities to ads, the sophisticated techniques corporations routinely use to target kids on digital devices, the need for better policies to protect kids, and practical steps families can take to limit the harmful effects of commercialism on their children. Register here.

Featured Resource

Does your state protect student privacy? According to a new report, probably not. Our friends at the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Network for Public Education graded each state on its student data protections and, despite of a number of high-profile breaches showing how important it is to secure student data, not a single state earned an A. In fact, eleven states earned an F! Learn more about the report and see how your state performed here.

Thanks to our donors!

A warm, heartfelt THANK YOU to the more than 220 donors who gave to our 2018 year-end campaign. You generously contributed $141,000 in December, so we can do even more for children in 2019. Our supporters are on the front lines of the future: you're holding Facebook and Google accountable, helping families navigate the fraught waters of ad-supported tech, and giving kids the commercial-free time and space they need and deserve. We absolutely could not do this work without you, and we're so grateful to work alongside you to build a world that truly values children. Thank you!

Screen-Free Week

Screen-Free Week 2019 is fast approaching! This year's celebration is April 29 – May 5. If you're organizing a celebration for a school, class, or community, start planning now. If your organization or business (library, park, nature center, and more) offers screen-free fun, now is the time to start planning, too. Find free resources on our website! Why do we need Screen-Free Week?  Here's what Harvard Health and the Cape Cod Times have to say.

Recommended Reading