September 2018

Important new allies step up to protect kids’ privacy; Featured Resource; Social Media, Social Life; Call for Stories; Screen-Free in California; Upcoming Webinars; Recommended Reading

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In this issue:

  • Important new allies step up to protect kids’ privacy
  • Featured Resource
  • Social Media, Social Life
  • Call for Stories 
  • Screen-Free in California
  • Upcoming Webinars
  • Recommended Reading

Important new allies step up to protect kids’ privacy

In April, we took a groundbreaking step to hold Google accountable for illegally collecting and sharing children’s data on YouTube. Now, we have new allies on board – and Google is facing similar allegations about the data collection practices of children’s apps. 

In the spring, we organized 23 advocacy organizations to file an FTC complaint detailing how Google uses YouTube to collect kids’ data without parental consent, and then uses that data to target kids with ads. Both of these practices are illegal under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Google’s response was that they didn’t need to comply with COPPA, because according to YouTube’s terms of service, “YouTube isn’t for children under 13.” But YouTube is the number one destination for kids on the internet, and offers a huge variety of kids’ content, which means that even if the terms of service says kids aren’t allowed, Google still needs to follow the law.  

This month, a bipartisan coalition in Congress joined our campaign. Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Jeff Fortenberry, Republican of Nebraska, sent a letter asking Google pointed questions about how kids use YouTube and what happens to their data. (We especially like this one: “You assert that YouTube is only for users age 13 and over. Why do you have channels on YouTube that are clearly child-directed?”) 

Also this month, Google had to face tough questions about the data collected by child-directed apps in the Google Play Store. The Attorney General of the state of New Mexico filed a federal lawsuit asserting that Google, along with Twitter and a mobile app maker called TinyLab Productions, are violating COPPA by collecting kids’ data through gaming apps and using it to target ads. Our Josh Golin pointed out in the Associated Press that if companies would simply abide by COPPA rules, parents would get advance notice of data collection, and wouldn’t need to search out apps without these predatory practices.

Featured Resource

Our most recent Action Network webinar is now available, and it’s full of practical tips! Veteran teachers and Screen Schooled authors Joe Clement and Matt Miles field hardball questions about screens in classrooms: When is and isn’t it appropriate to use digital devices? Is the pressure to incorporate ed-tech in schools driven by marketers? What can teachers do if their schools use ed-tech? Matt and Joe offer realistic, practical approaches for parents and teachers who want to work with school districts and improve student outcomes, along with helpful handouts for parents and schools. As Matt and Joe emphasize, there’s power in numbers! And a great way to build an activist cohort is to start a Screen Schooled book group. To learn more about the book, visit

Social Media, Social Life

Common Sense Media have released their latest report on teens and social media, and the results are complex. News reports have played up the positives, highlighting that social media is an outlet for expression, and that teens are more likely to say it makes them feel good than feel bad. But diving into the full report tells a different story, one where teens are highly ambivalent about the role of social media in their lives. A majority of teens say that social media has no bearing at all on whether they feel good or bad – but 68% say that it has a strong negative impact on their peers. 40% of teens wish they could go back to a time where there was no social media. 72% of teens think tech companies are manipulating users to spend more time on their devices, and more than half say that social media distracts them from paying attention to the people they’re with. Read the full report at Common Sense Media.

Call for Stories

CCFC founder Dr. Susan Linn is writing a sequel to her acclaimed book, Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, and she wants to hear from you! Dr. Linn is interviewing caregivers and teachers about the realities of childhood in today’s digitized culture. Consuming Kids was published in 2004 — before the advent of smartphones and tablets. Times have changed, and she is eager to hear about the challenges you face, the strategies you’ve devised, your most pressing concerns, and your hopes as you nurture children in today’s hyper-commercial world. What would make it easier to keep commercialism at bay? What strategies work for you, and which ones don’t? What are your hopes for children today? To talk to Dr. Linn, or if you have any questions, email her at

Screen-Free in California

Julia Chambers, middle school librarian at Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito, CA, shares how this year, her school’s Screen-Free Week 2018 challenged students to reconsider their relationships with screens. Not only did students increase their self-awareness of their year round screen use, they also enjoyed a 1980's-themed jigsaw puzzle, typewriter extravaganza, and more. Read her helpful planning tips for school organizers. Remember, it's never too early to start planning for Screen-Free Week 2019!

Upcoming Webinars

Monday October 15: Virtual Screening of Celling Your Soul and live Q&A with filmmaker Joni Siani. Voted Best Documentary at the Boston International Kids Film Festival, Celling Your Soul reveals an insider’s view of tech and teens—from young people themselves! Register here, and please note: this webinar will not be recorded so joining us live is the only way to see this acclaimed film for free! 7:30PM.

Monday, November 5: Explore how and why screens can interrupt critical developmental milestones at Technology and Young Children with Nancy Carlsson-Paige. Register here. 7:30PM.

Recommended Reading

  • WhatsApp’s founder was so disturbed by Facebook’s predatory data practices, he quit his job – and walked away from $850 million.
  • These kids were tired of competing with smartphones for their parents’ attention, so they did something about it. 
  • Generation Z is increasingly wary of social media. Hear from teens themselves about why they logged off
  • Social skills are more important than academic skills for young children, and free, unstructured play is essential to developing them.
  • Parents are trying to opt their kids out of classroom tech, and it isn’t easy. Says one mother: “They look at you like you are absolutely crazy.”