Should period tracker apps be doing this to teen girls at their most vulnerable?

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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?

Should period tracker apps for teens be showing adverts for weightloss, or telling our teens they are overweight? #apps #technology #womenshealth #health #healthapps #teens

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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Helen
Should period tracker apps for teens be showing adverts for weightloss, or telling our teens they are overweight? #apps #technology #womenshealth #health #healthapps #teens

10 Comments

  • I don’t believe in making young girls feel as though their bodies need to be altered. Everyone is different and each girl will develop differently. Tracking a menstrual cycle is one thing, but telling girls they need to lose weight is another.

  • I totally agree with you. It’s about time these younger kids stop obsessing about weight. If its a health concern, then so be it but with everything going commercial — it happens to just miss the point.

    Will talk to my little sister about this. I am not really sure if she’s seeing these ads.

  • I understand about doing whatever you can to protect our teens. They deserve not to be put upon or stressed by all the things we are stressed about. And we don’t need to force them to have our own hangups.

  • I am also using period trackers apps, but till now haven’t showed the weight loss advertisement. And if some apps show then we should give a feedback to remove it.

  • Maybe it depends on the person? Sorry cannot relate but if it does not really help then maybe go and send a message to that app?

  • Interesting, I have never noticed any weight loss ads, but then again I am in the United States and perhaps laws here are different and don’t allow that type of advertising. As parents, this is valuable information, thanks for bringing this to light.

  • Huh! I use the free version of one and have not seen a wight loss ad…yet. Then again, I’m in America so maybe different? Just checked now…there are 0 ads on my app but the weight part of the app is accessible when you click log/charts so it just doesn’t pop-up. A lot has to be done with “femtech” to modify them for girls/women.

  • I had no idea this was even in apps. I have 2 period trackers on my phone, one for my daughter and one for myself. I have never seen this feature, although mine could be the pet one you mentioned as mine is currently a unicorn. This is really worrying that girls of this age are encouraged to lose weight this way. I agree they should be more controlled to make sure this isn’t aimed at kids at all

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