Everything You Need to Know About COPPA and Esports

When video games first became a popular pastime for kids across the country, parents were worried that their children were “melting their brains.” Instead of focusing on school or participating in athletics, these parents believed their children were wasting valuable time that could otherwise be put towards a more marketable skill. But then, the body of research in support of the developmental and cognitive benefits of video games came to light.

Next were the concerns surrounding gaming and violence. Given the massive success of online games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, many parents and advocacy groups became concerned about a potential link between video games and violent behavior in adolescents. This is yet another knock against online gaming that, while plausible, has recently been proven untrue. A recent study assessing the level of aggression among teens who play violent video games found no support for any proposed link between the two, as reported by parents. Another strike against gaming misses the mark.

However, the skyrocketing popularity of esports leagues and professional gaming over the past decade has made a much more grounded fear into reality: Cyberbullying and online harassment. Despite providing people from all different walks of life with the ability to participate and compete with one another, the esports industry is notorious for its prejudicial streak. From female gamers to racial minorities to younger gamers, certain groups are often targeted by online trolls.

This is a difficult position for parents to navigate. Do you keep your child safe from potential danger and leave them isolated from peers? Or do you let them participate in esports leagues and risk exposure to the negativity?

Well, thanks to innovative partnerships between children’s esports leagues and the Federal Trade Commission, parents no longer need to choose. Companies that are compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) are able to ensure a safe space for you to develop their online gaming and communication skills.

Here’s everything you need to know about the esports industry and COPPA compliance.

What is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act?

Crafted by Congress just prior to the year 2000, COPPA places the control of a child’s online information in the hands of a parent or guardian. It also places specific requirements on the operators of any site or platform that is directed towards children under the age of 13. Here are a few of the requirements site operators and business owners need to follow under COPPA:

  • A concise, comprehensive privacy policy outlining information collecting practices

  • Providing direct notice to parents and guardians regarding the collection and potential disclosure of a child’s data

  • Obtaining consent from parents and guardians regarding the use of data

  • Allow parents and guardians to see what kind of data is collected

  • Take steps to ensure that the collection of data does not infringe on the confidentiality of a child

Basically, the COPPA regulations mean that providers of online platforms, sites, or public servers need to take steps to ensure the security of a child’s online information. This is particularly important to the world of esports and online gaming leagues, where around 70% of kids 18 and younger play video games.

The FTC has successfully used the COPPA requirements to address violations of child data security at organizations like Google, Miniclip, and Yelp. The Google case from 2020 also implicated YouTube as a COPPA infractor because they did not explicitly inform and obtain consent from parents regarding child data collection. The FTC consistently identifies information malpractice in plenty of different industries, but they are still under-presented in the online gaming space.

How Does COPPA Impact Esports and Online Gaming?

The FTC is looking to apply the COPPA Requirements across the gaming and esports space. Industry groups like the Esports & Online Gaming Association (ESOGA) and the North American Scholastic Esports Federations (NASEF) are now supporting them to raise awareness about and initiate programs regarding safe, secure esports leagues.

Although the traditional game manufacturers like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo often get the most attention as popular online game platforms, improvements in iOS, Android, and PC technology make them equally well-suited to competitive and collaborative gaming. This means mobile game and app developers also need to take measures to protect a child’s online data privacy. With all the different developers and game manufacturers out there, it's difficult for the FTC to monitor and regulate them all.

That’s why certified COPPA-compliant businesses are so crucial to creating safe children’s esports leagues.

Vanta and COPPA-Compliant Children’s Esports Leagues

Unfortunately, many of the developmental and coaching services in the esports community neglect to incorporate COPPA guidelines into their organizational structure. Sure, they may have a privacy policy and a “company ethos” of safety and security, but how are those values actually enforced? Parents, guardians, and teachers looking to leverage the benefits of esports leagues need to be sure that their kids are participating in a COPPA-compliant online space. Vanta Leagues is leading the way when it comes to securing children’s esports leagues.

Born out of frustration with online cyberbullying and concerning stories regarding the use of children’s online data by companies like Facebook and Instagram, Vanta League’s founders are driving a new generation of safe, secure esports leagues. Youth participation isn’t an afterthought or “side-gig” for us; it’s the whole enchilada.

Everything we do, from game selection to coach vetting to league structure to thought leadership, is centered around creating a safe space for children to experience the developmental and social benefits of online gaming leagues and esports coaching. To learn more about how Vanta Leagues is creating a new era of youth cybersecurity, reach out to us today!

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