The Ultimate Guide to Online Sweepstakes and Contests for Kids

If you’re a kid at heart, strumming up an awesome idea for a promotion for the littles is a dream. But, this is not the time to test boundaries! There are very specific rules laid out for online promotions geared towards children under 13, and you must play by them (including compliance with COPPA).

What is COPPA?

COPPA (“The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in charge of creating (and revising) the compliance guidelines for COPPA. In their “Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business” update, they include new methods for obtaining parental consent (among other things). This compliance plan clearly outlines what operators of websites and online services (like apps) have to do to protect children’s privacy and safety in an online arena.

COPPA applies to kids under 13.

Here’s How to Comply with COPPA

When it comes to running your online sweepstakes or contest, we will walk you through everything you need to do to ensure COPPPA compliance. And, we’ll make sure the aspects we administer are also in compliance with the rules. In general operators need to do all of the below to ensure compliance:

  • Parental Consent / Notice to Parents. Before you collect any personally identifiable info from kids under 13, you’ve got to get their parent’s permission first.  You’ll want to make sure you’re getting verifiable consent before collecting personally identifiable information from their children. An example of personally identifiable information would be a full name, home address, telephone number, etc.
  • Opt-In. After parents receive notice, they must opt the child in for participation.
  • Privacy Policy. Post it clearly & prominently on the home page and at each area where information is collected. In other words, make it stand out.

Are There Exceptions to COPPA Rules?

Limited ones, yes. You can review them all here in this chart provided by the FTC. Otherwise you need to always ensure compliance when marketing and collecting personal information online from kids under 13.

COPPA rules when it comes to online promotions, but there are other things to consider when marketing any style promotion to minors.

You Cannot Collect Health Related Information in Certain States

Although most sweepstakes and contests are run in accordance with general promotional law, there are always certain states that enforce some pretty specific rules. When it comes to minors, there are certain states that prohibit the collection of health related information (in addition to general personally identifiable information). For reference, “health related information” may be a child’s particular food allergy or medical condition.

We’ll walk you through the demographic information you can collect and the best ways to obtain the information you are looking for in a safe and legal way.

What about Contractual Agreements and Intellectual Property?

We have a lot of clients who run contests geared towards minors and some of them involve essays or other intellectual property submissions that might get posted online.  These are typically contests or sweepstakes that require the uploading of user generated content with the hopes of using it for later marketing or advertising purposes.

Remember, that in many states, a person under 18 cannot legally be bound to a contract (such as a release of rights to the intellectual property), so you’ll want to get parental consent. Although getting parental consent might seem like another daunting step to add to the submission process, we’ll guide you in the best way to structure entry so that you gather what you need, while staying compliant.

Is Social Media Participation an Issue?

You may not know this, but most social networks don’t allow kids under the age of 13 to participate in sweepstakes on their sites. We never advise a parent or other guardian.  Instead, we’ll review all social network guidelines with you and help resolve any structural issues while writing the official rules.

Launch Your Promotion with an Expert

These are a few of the issues to consider when running a sweepstakes or contest geared towards kids.  It’s important to consult with the experts before hitting the “launch” button just in case there are other issues to consider based upon your promotion structure. We work with children’s entertainment companies, so we know what we’re doing! Let us know your ideas and we’ll tell you what to collect, how to collect, how to notify and we’ll share the various ways to keep everyone happy!

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