Bonnie Patten, Esq. (Executive Director, describes several misleading marketing practices found on highly popular platforms for young children at #AskTheExperts webinar “Captive Market: Protecting Children in the New World of Online Advertising” on March 1, 2023.

[Bonnie Patten]: When it comes to gaming platforms, no company can – comes close to Roblox for grabbing children’s time and attention. Roblox operates a virtual reality space in which users can interact with one another in computer-generated environments known as “experiences” or “games.” And it is reported to be the largest entertainment website for children – more popular than the Disney Channel, with children spending more than 3 hours a day on average. On this platform, Roblox is so popular among children that at least 25 million daily users are 13 and under. As recently as September 2020, a quarter of Roblox users were under the age of nine, and three-quarters of all 9 to 12 year-olds in the United States regularly use it. Roblox and companies on its platform deceptively marketed to kids in a variety of ways, including using immersive virtual advertisements that are disguised as games, also known as “advergames” without informing kids that the games are really just giant ads. Also placing undisclosed sponsored content within organic worlds, and using undisclosed AI-controlled as well as human-created avatar brand influencers. In all of these formats, the distinction between what is marketing and what is organic content is almost always missing. Let me provide you with examples: in one of the undisclosed advergames for Walmart, children are lured into opening advertisements that are hidden within treasure chests and gift boxes.

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Ask the Experts—Webinar

Captive Market: Protecting Children in the New World of Online Advertising

How does hidden online advertising impact children's attitudes and behaviors? How and why is youth data collected, and what can or should be done to safeguard children online?

Social Media
Advertising and Marketing
Ethical Design
Media Literacy