Online Marketing to Kids: Protecting Your Privacy Lesson Plan

Level: Grades 6 to 9

Author: MediaSmarts

This lesson is part of USE, UNDERSTAND & ENGAGE: A Digital Media Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools.


This lesson introduces students to the ways in which commercial apps and websites collect personal information from kids and to the issues surrounding children and privacy on the Internet. Students begin by considering how comfortable they would be with people knowing various things about them, and then watch and discuss a video which explains how targeted advertising works. They then explore the idea of targeted advertising through a class exercise in which Prince Charming tries to target Cinderella with an ad for glass slippers, and then analyze how their own personal information might be used to target them with ads. In the second part of the lesson, students are introduced to privacy policies and how they are rated by the website Terms of Service, Didn’t Read. They read and analyze the site’s rating for a popular app and then learn ways to limit data collection. In an extension activity, students are introduced to the idea of “dark patterns” and imagine how the Wicked Queen might use them to convince Snow White to accept “poison” cookies.

Learning Outcomes

Know: Students will learn…

  • Privacy & security:
    • How personal information is used an ad targeting
    • Some possible impacts of data collection
    • What privacy policies are
    • Technical measures to limit data collection, including where and how to turn off ad targeting and tracking on popular apps
  • Consumer awareness:
    • How apps and other online platforms make money
    • How and why online platforms use targeted advertising 

Key vocabulary: Data, personal information, targeted advertising, privacy policy, dark pattern

Understand: Students will understand the following key concepts/big ideas:

  • Media have commercial considerations: Personal information is valuable to the companies that own apps and websites
  • Digital media have unanticipated audiences: You may be giving away more of your personal information than you are aware of when using apps
  • Digital media experiences are shaped by the tools we use: Features and defaults of apps’ design and interface can lead us to share more than we otherwise would.

Common misunderstandings to correct: The presence of a privacy policy does not mean that a service does not collect data, it only lays out how the service may collect and use your data

Do: Students will be able to…

  • Identify how advertisers might target them using their personal information
  • Evaluate a privacy policy
  • Take steps to limit data collection when using apps and websites

This lesson and all associated documents (handouts, overheads, backgrounders) are available in an easy-print, pdf kit version.