Today is ‘Safer Internet Day 2017’. We support this initiative which is aimed at helping promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology by children and young people.

Coordinated by the UK Safer Internet Centre, this year’s Safer Internet Day slogan is ‘Be the change: Unite for a better internet’ and looks at the role we can all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. As part of that, one of the themes they’re exploring is the power of images, and specifically the power of images in digital youth culture today.

With the sharing of images and videos via a range of devices and platforms now an everyday means of communication, it’s important that children are equipped with the skills, knowledge, confidence and resilience to do so safely.

We know through our own work, responding to complaints, conducting research with consumers and working with schools that advertising images can have an impact on young people. Whether it’s potentially offensive imagery or irresponsible or harmful content, what concerns people most about ads is what young people may see and hear. It’s our role to ensure that they’re protected from unsuitable material.

As such, our advertising rules place a particular emphasis on protecting young people. Ads are prohibited from containing anything that is likely to result in the physical, mental or moral harm of a child which, for the purposes of our rules, is anyone under-16.

As the ways in which we access digital media and content continue to evolve, it’s crucial that we continue to make sure that the same strict rules and protections apply in these spaces.

ASA rulings demonstrate the kind of concerns that ads can prompt and the strength of the rules surrounding young people:

•    Lightinthebox (UK) Ltd
The placement of ads with sexual content on a children's website was harmful and irresponsible

•    American Apparel (UK) Ltd
Ads on a company website had the effect of inappropriately sexualising school-age girls and were therefore offensive and irresponsible

•    PepsiCo International Ltd
An in-game ad could encourage emulation of an unsafe practice and result in harm as well as being likely to have strong appeal to under-16s and therefore were irresponsible.

To help equip young people with the knowledge and understanding of how advertising works, the rules that are in place and why and how it’s regulated, we created our schools resource. Including lesson plans, classroom activities and examples of ads that have prompted complaints as well as ASA rulings, it’s designed to encourage young people to critically appraise, challenge and form independent views on ads.  

Technology is generally a force for good. By providing a range of resources, including education packs, tools and tips for children, young people, parents and carers, the aim of Safer Internet Day is to help families enjoy technology together and stay safe and positive online. We support that aim.

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