Online and mobile advertising 

Just as companies might target your children through advertising in magazines, newspapers and on TV, many brands now recognise the power of new media – such as the internet and mobiles – for reaching young people.

A sports goods manufacturer might run an ad campaign on a social networking site like Facebook, a musician might use a mobile SMS (text message) promotion to sell concert tickets, or banner advertising on a website might be used to publicise a film, for example.

What do I need to know about online and mobile advertising? 

  • Whereas adverts in traditional media are often easy to spot (eg a commercial break during a TV programme), a lot of online and mobile advertising is integrated in other content so your child might not be able to distinguish between the two.
  • In recent years, advertising rules in the UK have started to include online and mobile advertising – fast food brands have been prevented from targeting young people on the internet, for example – but there are still some things you need to be aware of so that you can encourage your son or daughter to use the internet, mobiles and other devices safely and responsibly. These include:
  • Your child might come across inappropriate advertising (eg promotions for gambling, alcohol and erotic content) on websites aimed at grown-ups
  • They might agree to receive ads in return for a service, such as streamed music on Spotify
  • Their favourite websites might charge them for premium services, like downloading a ringtone for their mobile or purchasing virtual outfits for the characters in a computer game
  • Your son or daughter might be encouraged to send personal information, fill in online surveys or ‘Tell a friend’ in return for a prize – if they send their friend’s details without their consent, they’re breaking data protection rules
  • Clicking on a pop-up or banner on a website or on an email link could result in their personal information being collected by spammers or they could be taken through to an inappropriate website

What action can I take? 

Talk to your son or daughter about online and mobile advertising – point out the techniques advertisers use, such as creating interactive games or offering free downloads, to get people interacting with their brands

Remind them to not give out personal information as it might be used to send them marketing emails or could be passed on to other companies

Discuss what might happen if they click on a pop-up, banner or link in a marketing email – they could be taken through to an inappropriate website or they might compromise their computer’s security

Warn your kids about marketing scams – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is

Explain that they can opt out of SMS or MMS (text message) advertising at any time by replying to any message with the word ‘STOP’

If you’d prefer that your family’s Web use isn’t tracked, disable cookies in your browser – although, bear in mind that some social networking sites set cookies when someone registers their date of birth so that they know whether the user is old enough to access the website

Set up Parental Controls and Safe Search based on your child’s age and maturity – but remember, they might not be 100% effective and they aren’t a substitute for parental supervision

Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software in place on your child’s computer and make the most of built-in controls offered by your ISP, such as pop-up blockers and spam filters

Read our articles about mobile costs, privacy, security, spam & scams

Where can I go for more information and support?