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Social media companies generated $11 billion in ad revenue from miners

By Barbara Ortutay and Haleluya Hadera | Associated Press

Social media companies collectively generated more than $11 billion in advertising revenue in the United States from minors last year, according to a Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health study released Wednesday.

Researchers say the findings show the need for government regulation of social media because companies seeking to make money from children using their platforms have failed to meaningfully self-regulate. They note that such regulations, along with greater transparency from tech companies, could help mitigate harm to young people’s mental health and reduce potentially harmful advertising practices targeting children and adolescents.

To arrive at the revenue figure, researchers estimated the number of users under the age of 18 on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, survey data from Common Sense Media. and Pew Research. They then used data from research firm eMarketer, now called Insider Intelligence, and Qustodio, a parental control app, to estimate each platform’s U.S. ad revenue in 2022 and the amount of time kids spent per day on each platform. After that, the researchers said they built a simulation model using the data to estimate how much advertising revenue the platforms earned from miners in the United States.

Researchers and lawmakers have long focused on the negative effects of social media platforms, whose personalized algorithms can push children into excessive use. This year, lawmakers in states including New York and Utah have introduced or passed legislation that would limit social media use among children, citing harm to young people’s mental health and other concerns.

Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, is also being sued by dozens of states for allegedly contributing to the mental health crisis.

“While social media platforms claim they can self-regulate their practices to reduce harm to young people, they have not yet done so, and our research suggests they have a strong financial incentive to continue to delay taking action significant to protect children. ” said Bryn Austin, professor in Harvard’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and lead author of the study.

The platforms themselves do not make public how much money they make from minors.

Social media platforms are not the first to advertise to children, and parents and experts have long expressed concerns about marketing to children online, on television and even in schools. But online ads can be particularly insidious because they can target children and because the line between ads and the content children seek is often blurred.

In a 2020 policy paper, the American Academy of Pediatrics said children are “particularly vulnerable to the persuasive effects of advertising because of their immature critical thinking skills and impulse inhibition.”

“School-age children and adolescents may be able to recognize advertising, but are often unable to resist it when it is embedded in trusted social networks, promoted by famous influencers, or shown alongside “personalized content,” notes the newspaper.

As concerns about social media and children’s mental health grow, the Federal Trade Commission earlier this month proposed sweeping changes to a decades-old law that regulates how online companies can track and advertise to children. Proposed changes include opting out of targeted ads aimed at children under 13 by default and limiting push notifications.

According to the Harvard study, YouTube generated the most ad revenue from users 12 and under ($959.1 million), followed by Instagram ($801.1 million) and Facebook ($137 .2 million dollars).

Instagram, meanwhile, generated the largest ad revenue from users aged 13 to 17 ($4 billion), followed by TikTok ($2 billion) and YouTube ($1.2 billion).

Researchers also estimate that Snapchat earned the largest share of its overall ad revenue in 2022 from users under 18 (41%), followed by TikTok (35%), YouTube (27%), and Instagram (16%). .

California Daily Newspapers

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