The ASA’s 100 Children Report, published today, provides a fascinating insight into UK children’s real-world mobile phone and tablet use, the platforms and sites they visit and the ads they’re exposed to over the course of one week.
Amid concerns about children’s exposure to age-restricted ads, our study found that of the 11,424 occasions when an online ad was served to the personal devices of our children’s panel, 435 (3.8% of the total) related to an alcohol, gambling or other age-restricted ad. Of these, there were 73 occasions (0.6% of the total number) when the ad was served in likely breach of the UK targeting rules. The ASA is – as a priority – following up with the 30 advertisers behind these ads (and the platforms, where relevant) to corroborate our findings and, as necessary, secure remedial action and assurances of future compliance.
The 100 Children Report also adds significantly to societal understanding of the prevalence and consequences of children registering with false dates of birth on social media. For example, our findings suggest that at least 11% of children’s social media accounts are registered with a date of birth that falsely suggests the account holder is 18 or older; as a likely consequence, we found that these accounts were served 47% of all the age-restricted ads captured in our study, almost two-thirds more than children registered with a child’s age.
To mitigate the risks associated with these nominally adult accounts, the ASA expects advertisers and their agencies to use a combination of targeting tools, and not rely entirely on age data, to ensure they’re doing everything they can to serve their age-restricted ads to an adult audience and away from a child audience. We’ll be following up with the 65 advertisers who were behind the 261 occasions when an age-restricted ad was served to these accounts and to other sites where more than 75% of the audience are adult to ensure they are adhering to new guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice.
In keeping with our reports on children’s exposure to age-restricted TV ads, the ASA hopes that information provided in this Report will help to better inform debate about the effectiveness and the proportionality of the rules that currently restrict ads for alcohol, gambling, foods high in fat, salt or sugar and other age-restricted ads. Findings from the report also underline the importance of advertisers, agencies and other marketing intermediaries acting collectively to appropriately limit children’s exposure to ads for alcohol, gambling and other age-restricted ads online.
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