In comments made to the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission said it has recommended that media companies “ramp up” their self-regulatory efforts to protect kids in the digital age.
As part of the FCC’s inquiry into whether it needs to update its regulation of children’s TV and related media in a multiplatform world, the FTC reviewed its own studies and enforcement efforts.
The agency’s comments on “Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media Landscape” focused on successful enforcement actions as well as consumer and business education.
The FTC noted that in the second quarter of 2010, it plans to launch a multimedia initiative called AdMongo, “designed to promote advertising literacy among tweens,” children aged 8 to 12.
The initiative has three goals: to teach children to be aware of advertising and marketing messages, to teach them how to read, analyze, and understand ads, and to show them the benefits of being an informed consumer.
Turning to policy, the agency focused on three areas of concern: the marketing of food and beverages to children, the marketing of violent entertainment to children, and online virtual worlds.
“In each of these [areas], the FTC recommended that industry participants, along with media companies involved in children’s marketing, ramp up their efforts at self regulation,” the agency said.
The FTC said that a study is due out next year that will address the marketing of snack foods to children. The study will help the agency determine whether or not media companies adopted its earlier recommendations regarding expanding self-regulations to cover all forms of advertisements and promotions, as well as limiting the use of character licensing to healthier foods and beverages.
Regarding violent content, the FTC said that “marketers can do much more to restrict the promotion of mature-related or -labeled products to children.” Looking specifically at the marketing of music and movies, the FTC said the lack of ad regulation has “resulted in ads on television shows that disproportionately attract young teenagers.”
In addition, “movie studios directly and pervasively market PG-13 movies to children under 13 on television, in print, and on the Internet, even though the rating is supposed to represent a strong caution to parents that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.” The FTC said it plans to continue monitoring this area.
In light of the ever-increasing use of mobile communications to access various forms of entertainment, especially by children, the agency also recommended that the industry help parents by providing information and effective parental controls.
“[M]obile applications are quickly changing the way that children access entertainment, and may be less familiar to parents and more difficult for them to supervise. Given the sheer volume of applications currently available for mobile devices and the dramatic rate at which applications are proliferating, in the near term, responsibility falls on wireless carriers and individual publishers to provide content information and effective parental controls. The FTC will continue to work with the industry and others to encourage efforts to give parents practical information to help them decide which products are appropriate for their children,” the agency said.
Why it matters: While the FTC makes several references to continued monitoring of marketing to children, the comments also stress the importance of industry self-regulation. “Given important First Amendment considerations, the FTC supports private sector initiatives by industry and individual companies to implement its suggestions,” the agency said.