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During 2023, legislative, congressional, and executive actions aimed at protecting children and teens online took center stage. Such actions included: legislative attempts to raise the age of a “child” at both the federal and state levels for advertising and privacy purposes; bans on behavioral advertising targeting minors; efforts to restrict access to social media by minors; First Amendment legal challenges; and the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) long-awaited proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.

Over the last few years, we have reported on regulatory, legal, and voluntary initiatives aimed at expanding protections for minors online, from calls by advocates for the FTC to up-age COPPA, federal and state restrictions on targeted advertising directed at children and teens, and debates about the scope of COPPA preemption, to friction between First Amendment rights and the public policy objectives around protecting minors from certain types of content online. In 2024, we expect that policy and legal actions related to advertising and privacy will continue to focus on protecting children and teens.

In our article 2023 U.S. Advertising and Privacy Trends and 2024 Forecast: Focus on Kids and Teens, we provide a historical look at children’s privacy, beginning with how different jurisdictions and agencies define the age of a “child.” We dive into federal and state legislation and discuss the plethora of bills surrounding this highly debated topic, which affect online services, social media platforms, and other businesses targeting U.S. audiences. COPPA was the first children’s privacy law anywhere, and the FTC has brought many enforcement actions, but a debate regarding how to safeguard all minors online that was once thought settled continues. This has led to increasing calls to “up-age” the definition of “child” to cover all minors under 16 or 18.  We highlight the federal and state legislative landscape, key proposals in the FTC’s COPPA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and current litigation. This includes preemption, First Amendment decisions, and recent suits targeting online platforms such as Meta, TikTok, and YouTube, alleging that social media companies harm children and teens, physically and mentally, through addictive algorithms that expose them to inappropriate content. We end with our take on the year to come, which promises to involve ongoing constitutional, legal, and policy questions likely to affect a broad swath of businesses.

To access the compendium 2023 U.S. Advertising and Privacy Trends and 2024 Forecast: Focus on Kids and Teens, click here.