Children are a tough audience to reach. In the age of smartphones and social media, it’s not just about appeal; it’s also about safety.
Even if kids are a program’s intended users, it’s the purchaser or downloader — parents, typically — who marketers must cater to. And even if kids don’t care about their safety online, their parents most certainly do.
Online, the “don’t talk to strangers” maxim is nearly impossible to enforce. To keep threats not just outside the house, but off their kids’ screens, parents and marketers must work together.
Making the World Safer
Fortunately, there’s plenty that businesses can do to make the internet and smartphones safer. While all online entities accessible to general audiences — from content creators to product manufacturers — must adhere to state, federal, and international laws regarding child safety, the legal minimum isn’t enough.
To keep kids using smartphones safe, risk prevention and education are key. Let’s break it down:
1. Only Ask for What You Need
Imagine you’re a restaurant or retailer with a customer loyalty app. You might be tempted to collect all the information you can: full name, home address, birthdate, social media handles, and more. But the more you collect, the greater your risk — and the penalties for companies that mishandle minors’ data are stiff.
Set your app to collect only the data you truly need. For instance, you could use points attached to a username that’s then tethered to a phone number. This way, the user has all the information they need and you have enough information to verify that user in your database.
Just as importantly, be transparent. Explain at the point of download what information you collect on users and why. Don’t hide this information in a terms-of-service page; place it in a prompt the user sees upon opening the app.
2. Educate Parents
Although parents could opt to keep their kids unplugged, there’s societal pressure for everyone to be connected. Children are naturally curious, and they can be steered by peer pressure toward content that isn’t appropriate for younger audiences.
Trying to keep kids from downloading certain apps on their smartphones is a losing battle. Encourage parents to seek device-level solutions, like Gabb Wireless’ child-friendly smartphone. The Android-based no-internet device can introduce kids to mobile technology without the inherent risks.
Educational content has a role to play, too. Develop resources for parents not just about your app or website, but around best practices in keeping children safe online. Arming parents with information about how predators and scammers target kids can prevent bad situations before they happen.
3. Encourage Healthy Social Media Habits
Social media sites may be popular, but too much of anything often turns out to be a bad thing. Although they’re valuable tools for personal connection, children who overuse social media may experience mental health issues. According to a 2017 study, those who spend more than two hours a day on social media platforms are twice as likely to develop or have social anxiety.
This is a great opportunity for a CSR campaign. Champion healthy social media use in your content, and implement check-ins that ask users who’ve been in the app for hours whether it’s time to take a break.
Safety may not be on kids’ minds, but it’s certainly on their parents’. Make it easy to protect young eyes from dangerous content online, and you’ll win fans who stick around well beyond the next software update.