Teenagers are increasingly moving their digital social lives from physical public places where their parents could keep a watchful eye on them to smartphone messaging apps, giving them nearly complete privacy in their social lives. To parents, many of whom are unknowledgeable about technology that they rely on their children for tech support, the danger is obvious. To advertisers, the opportunity is enormous. BOTS, a new type of artificial intelligence technology seems to be butting in on your child’s online chats.
So what are bots? Bots are like automated computer programs that scour the Internet posting sometimes interesting and witty comments within social media networks. To the outside world, they seem like a real user or person.They can show up within an online chat room or messenger app and carry on a conversation with you without you even knowing it wasn’t human. They have also been know to tweet, like, or post to Facebook many thousands a times per second giving many social media companies lots of headaches when trying to accurately determine users analytics. It has gotten so popular that marketing companies are now enlisting them to chat with teens in social networking apps so as to promote their brand.
With that in mind, teens are increasingly sharing more of their personal information on social media sites and messaging apps, a trend that is likely driven by the evolution of the platforms teens use as well as changing norms around sharing. And so, many times these bots are under-cover and teens are unaware thinking they are talking to a human. And so, inappropriate advertising could get pushed their way or personal information could get collected all without getting overseen by parents.
On Kik, a very popular social media app, it is common knowledge that advertisers are texting with teens using ‘BOT’ technology. Shows like MTV, Funny or Die, and sites like Amazon and The Washington Post are currently using artificial intelligence in the form of BOTS to push their brands to teens in the form of quick and quirky conversations with them.
Parents might want to take a closer look at who their kids are chatting with and to probably take note the next time your teen gets off their phone only to find they have an overwhelming need to go shopping, buy a questionable app or want an increase in their allowance. And so if parents are looking for further online resources to help them on this subject a good place for parents to start the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website at: www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca. They have lots of links and tips to get you started.