Episode 140: How You and Your Kids are Being Targeted (& the Ethics of Advertising)

November 7, 2022


Technology is our reality. It is out there. It is boisterous. It is loud. And, it’s something that is so prevalent and so important, especially in the lives of entrepreneurs.

We have to know how to raise babies and raise businesses in a technological era. It’s pretty common to just go through life conforming naturally to what comes next. But being informed is different from conforming. And being conscious of how technology targets us and targets our kids, making the decision as business owners to how and when we will use and leverage tech ourselves in our own marketing, and where we’re going to draw the line and what’s ethical to us is so important. 

So today, we’re sharing some pretty enlightening (and kinda scary) data and information to help you make more conscientious decisions for your family, for your business, for yourself. How are companies actively targeting you and your children? What is really going on that we’re not being told and what to do about it?

Let’s dive into it!


[3:13] Going Off the Grid? 

In today’s day and age, it’s pretty unrealistic to be a family that is completely tech-free. 

If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably advertise online. And as soon as you create a footprint – as soon as you use your credit card online, as soon as you have a cell phone, as soon as you have a computer you’re using – you’re not off the grid. Once you’re on there, you’re on there. It’s really, really important for our children to understand these principles because they’re growing up in an era that’s telling them things like “Use Snapchat because the information disappears”. It never disappears. You don’t get to erase that digital footprint. 

So, this episode is chock full of data and information around how companies use technology and your front-facing camera to advertise to you and to your kids. And as an entrepreneur, you have to make some ethical decisions of what feels like crossing the line for you when it comes to advertising and targeting. Because the reality is, we have to market, we have to put our name out there, but there might be some strategies that really don’t feel aligned with your values, and your personal moral compass.

[5:25] Target Advertising and Your Moral Compass 

The first thing I want to talk about is how target advertising actually works.

There are a bunch of different ways that people and companies leverage target advertising. Common examples are: through social media, purchasing history, search engine advertising, etc. 

So how can you do this, ethically and effectively yourself, as a business owner? It makes sense in a lot of ways to use targeted advertising, but you have to be transparent about what you do. A lot of companies are not transparent, they’re trying to do this very much behind the scenes. Also, you have to be very protective of any clients’ data or sensitive information and not use that information against them, to target them. You also need to have controls and boundaries around how and what you use this for. 

[7:54] Facial Recognition Advertising

Here’s where things get totally creepy. Facial recognition advertising uses your front-facing camera on your phone or your laptop (even if it’s not technically on!) to see your face and determine how they want to advertise to you accordingly. 

The reality is that we’re probably not hiding from this because even if you were the type that is like me, and you have a piece of tape over your camera, you’re not hiding from this technology. If you go shopping, there are cameras in stores that are using this technology for their advertising. This is the nature of the beast right now that we can’t hide from. 

To me, this feels like crossing boundaries especially because it’s not informed consent. There’s nothing telling you that that’s happening. There are a lot of things that we are not made aware of which makes it really fishy. And then again, this is happening to our children and I don’t like that our children are being susceptible to this.

[13:23] The Reality of Today 

You probably have noticed that you’ll be talking about something with a friend (in person) and your cell phone is somewhere in range of that conversation, and then you get advertising for something in the realm of that conversation. This is because your phone is listening all the time. This is what it’s designed to do. 

The other thing is that many companies deny doing this, they won’t admit to using your camera without your permission. There are also companies that weave it into the fine print, like Instagram. So being aware of this and understanding how it affects your digital footprint and how to raise kids with this, it might really make you rethink things. Like how you allow technology for your children and at what ages? How do you introduce it and how do you have conversations around it? To turn a blind eye to it is to really to set yourself and your kids up for a major potential harm and failure.

[16:44] Conversations You Need to Have

There was a series of parents that came out recently with videos of how when their kids would be using the family tablet to watch kid-appropriate YouTube videos, the commercials would gradually get more promiscuous and inappropriate for kids. It wasn’t even necessarily advertising a thing, but a concept  or a message, something that was completely inappropriate for children. So, the parents did a test and over a course of a month, they would put their faces in front of the camera and they would just let YouTube play for a while. And those ads never came up. But when the parents would move off to the side and put the kids’ faces in front of the camera, those ads would start to come up. 

These are the conversations that we need to be having with our children. Even as young as mine. My daughter is three and we’re talking to her about how and why we allow certain things and why we don’t and how marketers and advertisers will target things. Because raising independent, smart, aware kids is part of the equipping process.

[20:31] Advertising to Teens and Kids 

I also want to talk about how advertisers are specifically targeting your teens. I feel like at that age, it’s really tough, because you have less control over the situation; if your kids are going off to school and they have a device in their pocket, they have access to the whole entire world. It’s a really scary thought that oftentimes we don’t think about at all, because it’s just so natural and common. 

A big thing that makes me super uneasy, is that brands are also watching your teen’s movements through various apps and online activities: social media, gaming sites, etc. And  there are people that hack these things to get access to our kids’ information. Children, as young as 13, are legally fair game to have their data collected. There’s a Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that somewhat protects kids under 13 from data collection, but when you think about it, there are a lot of young kids that can just check the box saying “I’m over 13” which means their data is being collected as well. 

Also, advertisers are not just targeting teens, they’re targeting young kids as well.  95% of downloaded apps for kids ages five and under, use at least one type of advertising. A lot of these apps are designed with the same level of veracity to target adults, and kids don’t know how to defend themselves against that. And the reality is you’re not going to be sitting next to your kid the whole time so these conversations need to happen. 

[26:48]  Setting the Example 

Why do I share all of this? Because I think it helps to have information that you might not have the capacity to go seek out on your own, condensed into one place. It’s really about awareness so that you can make the right decisions for you and your kids. Being informed is huge and as an entrepreneur, being informed allows you to lead your business with a level of integrity. You don’t want to protect your kids from something that you’re doing yourself. You want to operate with an ethical sense of morality and integrity so that you can do things in alignment with who you’re really called to be and set that example for your children.

I hope today’s episode helps you start these conversations with your own kids so that you both can make more conscientious decisions around technology and the way you use it.

And if this episode spoke to you, make sure to subscribe and leave us a review! Come connect with me on Instagram at @elizhartke! If there’s a topic, a question or a guest you want to hear on the show, just reach out and share that. We do this for you so the more you tell us, the more we can serve.


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