ASA Finds Alcohol, Gambling Ads Served to Children on Social Media

Dan Meier 01 December, 2022 

Almost 4 percent of adverts served to children on social media are age-inappropriate, a new study by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed.

Using data from Kantar, the ASA monitored advertising for 1,000 11-17 year olds on major social media platforms. The research found that out of 11,424 ad impressions, 3.8 percent were alcohol, gambling and other age-restricted adverts, from 91 different advertisers. The ASA is following up with the advertisers in question, and intends to publish a report on enforcement next year.

The majority of inappropriate adverts were gambling ads (269), followed by alcohol (86), HFSS (74) and cosmetic surgery or weight loss (6). The report noted that HFSS (high in fat, salt or sugar) advertising was only counted when served to under-16s, to whom HFSS restrictions apply.

Early registration

“The report also adds significantly to societal understanding of the prevalence and consequences of children registering with false dates of birth on social media,” said the ASA. The findings show at least 17 percent of children are incorrectly registered on social media platforms with their age given as 18+.

Unsurprisingly, this increases the risk of their being served age-inappropriate advertising. According to the research, 29 percent of those using an adult’s age received an age-restricted advert, versus 10 percent of those registered with a child’s age.

The bulk of the overall impressions were served on Facebook (36.7 percent), followed by YouTube (15.7 percent), Twitter (8.4 percent) and Instagram (7.5 percent). The ASA also noted that these platforms have a minimum age requirement of 13, but 86 percent of 11-12 year olds say they posses their own account, “meaning they are almost certainly registered with a false date of birth.”

Parental controls

In terms of access, 94 percent of children said they operate social media via personal devices only they use, with 79 percent using their own mobile phones. It follows that 75 percent of children set up their social accounts themselves, though this likelihood increases with age.

Finally the study suggested children pay little attention to the adverts they see, based on their recall, although holidays and video game ads proved the most memorable. One reportedly found a Schwarzkopf advert “annoying”, while another expressed dislike for an ad in which “a dog poos and they show the poo bag saying that you should buy those poo bags.”

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