We have spotted that there are period tracker apps showing young girls weight loss adverts alongside personalised information about their weight.
Information that is telling them, through out-dated BMI calculations, which cannot tell the difference between muscle and fat, that they are OVERWEIGHT.
Period tracker apps showing weight loss ads to teens
If that isn’t a time bomb for a generation already obsessed with self-image then what is. Surely, we don’t need apps, used by teens, who may already be struggling with their own insecurities, to tell them they are overweight. Doesn’t this show our teens how imperfections / differences aren’t “the norm” encouraging them to conform to what our society views is an ideal body weight and shape?
Shouldn’t we be managing this type of app a little more closely, and applying suitable regulation?
Period tracker apps shouldn’t be:
- Helping vulnerable teens to obsess about weight: At the time a tween, or teen uses period trackers it is to help them to manage something that can make them feel vulnerable. Why are we talking about weight alongside this? Why do we need to get them to track their weight, and tell them they are overweight when hormones are already fluctuating widely. Don’t add to the angst!
- Showing weight loss advertising to kids: One particular app we looked at is listed as for 12+ within the app store, and it IS possible to turn off fertility tracking within the app, which is great. However, there is nothing when you sign into the app asking for age. Advertising weight loss products to 13 to 16-year olds really shouldn’t be happening AT ALL, and finally
- Storing children’s data (or sharing it) within the EU without proper GDPR compliant practises: The rules under GDPR for under 16 users are extremely stringent. Parental consent must be given for organisations to hold personal data about a minor.
Period tracker apps need to take steps to work out what age their users are
Period tracker apps can be very helpful. They are a fabulous way of using new technology to enable people to keep track of what is going on with “that time of the month.” and even assist with trying to conceive.
However, they are also used by teenage girls, particularly when they are clearly marketed at the “younger” end of the market. One app has a “pet” that you can get for free, or upgrade through in-app purchases. This is potentially a very deliberate attempt to capture the teen marketplace. Given this, one would have imagined that there should be more effort to insure that teens are not seeing advertising unsuitable for their age.
In light of recent events on social media, and instagram in particular, app providers need to take things seriously when it comes to the safety and mental health of the kids using them.
If your app is targeted at a wide range of ages, then shouldn’t it be required that you gather relevant data about your users, so that you aren’t showing them adverts which could affect self-esteem? Weight loss products, and plans are complicated. Under 16s need a little help to manage them properly, with the input of an adult.
Could these apps be breaking GDPR rules?
Given GDPR requirements; for an app to be used by under 16-year olds, there are stringent rules about data storage. One of the apps we looked at did state this. However, if you then input dates that suggests you are under 16; you were still able to login to the app.
Other apps didn’t have any warning on age, or options to add the age of the user into the system.
As there are no age filters on who sees these ads, could they cause damage to our kids? Might the adverts we saw, alongside an implied call to action that a teen is overweight, take an already fragile mind, and push it over into more sinister thoughts and obsessions, such as anorexia….
The advert we saw in the period tracker we were using was for another app (focused on weight loss), that seems to be from the same developer. There was even a review for this app on the app store from a 14 year old girl who was looking to lose weight and was “happy” with weight loss of 7lbs in 5 days.
This was a little concerning, as that is a large weight loss (half a stone) in a small period of time. Kids are almost certainly not as able to process slower, more healthy weight loss targets, and so faster, less healthy weight loss, is likely to entice them more to follow a specific diet plan. Unfortunately, this kind of comment from a fellow teen could be very persuasive for peers. Perfect peer advertising, but to a vulnerable group. 😉 We are really not sure that this is a healthy way to loose weight; particularly for a 14-year old girl.
In fact, why should 14-year olds be too concerned about losing weight at all?
Do YOU feel this is right?
Are you comfortable with knowing this is happening on our tween and teen phones? Would love to know what you think, and whether you would be happy with this type of functionality and advertising in an app your daughters’ are likely to use?
Do let us know what you think in the comments below.
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