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Facebook Made My Teenager into an Ad. What Parent Would Ever 'Like' That?

A generation of ‘opt-in’ kids is being exploited, and someone needs to supervise the social network.

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Not only can my daughter’s digital record affect her future educational and career prospects (more and more college recruiters and employers are checking out the online profiles of students and potential employees), but this practice is a component of a larger problem: my daughter’s generation is increasingly being subsumed by the relentless intrusion of advertising and commercialism into our lives. Ads are everywhere, not only in the physical world – at the bus stop and the airport baggage carousel – but online. I object to it, and as a parent, I want to shield my daughter from it to the extent possible. Sure, my daughter’s generation may be “opting in” more than my own, but I feel they are doing so unwittingly, and so the Facebook generation is playing by Facebook’s rules, rather than their own.

Fortunately, the governments of California and six other states have laws that children’s images cannot be used without their parents’ consent. Government entities don’t always give parents the support they need or regulate what needs to be regulated. But in this case, laws already are in place to help us protect our children.

The problem is that Facebook, through this settlement, is making an end run around these laws – and around parents – by assuming that just because kids between the ages of 13 and 18 say they’re okay with something means they understand the implications. Facebook is undermining my role as a parent. Because even at 10 years old and with its billions of dollars, Facebook is still a kid. Now the justice system needs to impose some supervision.

Annie Leonard is the author of The Story of Stuff and is an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, with more than 20 years of experience investigating factories and dumps around the world.
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