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Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Companies are increasingly chasing next-gen consumers: America's youth.

What's new: Fidelity today said 13- to 17-year-olds can trade stocks using an account in teens' full control once it's opened by a guardian. It's an industry first — and other brokers could follow.

Why it matters: Kids are a lucrative market given how much younger they are developing online habits (something the pandemic has only made worse).

What they're saying: "It's basically hook 'em as young as you can, period," says Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a children's advocacy group that's called for more regulations on this front.

  • "They market to kids and teens because a) you hook them at a young age and b) you get their parents."

It's happening across a slew of industries.

  • Media companies like Netflix and ViacomCBS are pouring millions of dollars into content for kids. The New York Times is testing kid-friendly digital subscriptions.
  • 44 state attorneys general urged Facebook to drop plans for a version of Instagram for those under 13. (It already has the controversial Messenger Kids.)
  • One toy retailer now "lets kids as young as 3 years old shop for gifts ... without requiring further signoff from an adult," the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

The big picture: For decades, there's been caution around what is too dangerous to be marketed to kids (think cigarettes and toy guns). But the line between what should and shouldn't be off-limits is getting blurrier.

What to watch: Big Tech's reputation for getting kids onto its platforms is the source of bipartisan ire. One concern: These companies have fallen short on privacy for adult users — the same will happen for children.

  • "Unfortunately, when it comes to putting children ahead of their profits, Big Tech always fails," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said at a congressional hearing on children's online privacy today.

Of note: Fidelity says there are guardrails to ensure trading teens — who can't trade on margin — are supervised.

  • Guardians must agree to receive activity statements, plus they can sign up for alerts on all transactions, a spokesperson says.

Go deeper

Aug 20, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado kids are starting to get sicker from COVID-19

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Contrary to earlier in the pandemic when kids were rarely reported to severely suffer from COVID-19, Colorado health officials are now sounding the alarm that the virus is rapidly affecting more children and teens.

Driving the news: A surge in COVID-19 cases and respiratory illnesses has raised hospitalization counts at Children's Hospital by more than 20% over what is typical this time of year, the Denver Gazette reports.

"No-code" miracle for startups

Expand chart
Data: Interactive Advertising Bureau; Table: Axios Visuals

The U.S. has reached a tipping point in its shift from the industrial economy — one that relied on the buildout of hardware — to an information economy that relies on the transfer, storage and implementation of data, according to a new report.

Why it matters: This shift towards a data and information-based economy has allowed more businesses to establish themselves and scale quickly and at a very low cost. As such, the number of jobs created by the commercial internet has more than tripled since 2012.

Amazon's small business shield

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon is touting the success of small sellers on its platform through the pandemic — and warning that antitrust legislation could jeopardize that success and blow up its open-marketplace model.

Why it matters: As online shopping became a lifeline for both businesses and consumers during the pandemic, Amazon reaped big benefits, but also saw its regulatory risk grow.