Web Adverts Not Clear To Children, UK

When viewing web pages children have difficulty telling the difference between adverts and non-adverts.

This is the finding of Ms Moondale Ali and Dr Mark Blades from the University of Sheffield who presented their findings on Wednesday 29 August 2007, at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Section Annual Conference at the University of Plymouth.

Children enjoy using the internet and its popularity continues to grow. However, 98% of children’s websites include advertising and as Ofcom’s ruling on restricting advertising to children in the broadcast media does not extend to the internet there is concern about usage of these adverts and their effect.

This study focussed on the ability of young children (aged six to 10-years-old) to recognise the difference between an advert and information on a web page. 400 children participated (from the UK and Indonesia) and were shown 27 web pages, some with adverts and some without, and asked to identify the web pages containing adverts and then point out the adverts on them.

The results showed that younger children had difficulty recognising adverts and that even the 10-year-old children had difficulty in identifying all the adverts.

Dr Blades said: “Young children’s inability to identify adverts on web sites is a major concern and has important policy implications. At present the government in the UK has introduced bans on some food advertising to children but they have only done so only in relation to TV advertising.

“As this research demonstrates children are susceptible to online advertising and, by not regulating this, they are not given the same levels of protection even though children are just as likely to be online as watching TV.”

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