Cynicism, Teens and Online Programs

14 Oct

My 15-year-old daughter made a comment at dinner last night that sent a shiver down my spine. We were talking about Facebook applications and how companies use them to create or reinforce a connection with their customers.

“Are apps those things that pop up a box I have to check giving it permission or something? Because I never do that. I just change the page.” Talk about a sucker punch.

But my daughter is not alone. It turns out she’s just reflecting her peers. A new survey from Common Sense Media, a social advocacy group, paints a pretty harsh picture of how teens view the media we rely on to connect with them.

  • 88% believe search engines watch their browsing habits and sell that information
  • 79% believe social networks sell their personal information
  • 68% think that games like Farmville are guilty of the same

That’s a pretty harsh assessment of an online world where this generation spends hours at a time. But it shouldn’t be surprising since they’ve been told since early childhood of all the terrible things that can happen to them online.

In fact the same poll found that 75% of the parents were convinced that social networks weren’t doing enough to protect their kids privacy. And a stunning 92 percent believed their kids share too much information online.

So what’s a marketer to do? It’s hardly time to walk away from Facebook, nor could any responsible agency recommend it. But it is a stark reminder that just because we CAN do something on Facebook, doesn’t mean we SHOULD. Nor does it mean consumers will play along.

Privacy has always been a huge concern. When planning a campaign it’s more imperative than ever to make sure there’s a clear and compelling value equation for the consumer. And every online program should have a clearly defined step in the process that explains to the consumer why you are asking for their information, what it will make possible to do for them, and how or if you will use that information going forward.

And remember, always say please.

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