Ads (…) for the program run by uTest on Instagram and Snapchat sought teens 13-17 years old for a “paid social media research study.” The sign-up page for the Facebook Research program administered by Applause doesn’t mention Facebook, but seeks users “Age: 13-35 (parental consent required for ages 13-17).”
I understand the interest in this, whilst at university I used a service which gave companies access to my browser so that they could track my overall usage. I’d get paid really small amounts of money but to me it was better than nothing. When you think about how many companies sell the data of their users without paying them, it is interesting that some will openly pay for it.
As this was a research study, I don’t think it’s unethical unless it’s used to manipulate their users into overuse, which could be the case based on the companies mentioned. Also, with parental consent being required, it’s really up to the parents, so if they want to prevent their children from overusing their devices or being distracted by them, they shouldn’t agree to something which essentially pays their children to use social media.
Being paid to use social media sounds like a great idea, a parent might think “oh they’re using it anyway, they might as well get paid” but children (age 13-17) definitely aren’t quite equipped to deal with a lot of the content out there. Think of how being trolled affects adults, think of how the self esteem of adults is affected by images on social media, now imagine the effect it could have on a child.
The child might grow up wishing they were more like someone else, living their young lives without really taking in the world around them, the offline world, the real world. Why would a parent subject their children to unnecessary stress and pressure?
It doesn’t matter how mature a child is, how confident they are or how intelligent they are, the negative emotional implications of paying them to be constantly ‘switched on’ or ‘plugged in’ are going to be significant and may manifest in unexpected ways.
Some updates about this story:
Google distributed a private app that monitored how people use their iPhones, in much the same way that Facebook did — and got in trouble for.
In addition to that:
“Wiretapping teens is not research, and it should never be permissible.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement. “Instead of learning its lesson when it was caught spying on consumers using the supposedly ‘private’ Onavo VPN app, Facebook rebranded the intrusive app and circumvented Apple’s attempts to protect iPhone users.”