Call for tighter ad controls on children's websites

A quarter of the ads running on popular children's websites are aimed at adults, promoting services such as dating and gambling, according to a new report. It also found that children have trouble distinguishing online advertising from entertainment. The report, called 'Fair Game' and published by the National Consumer Council and Childnet International, concludes that there should be more efforts to monitor online advertising practices and enforce existing codes; and better efforts to make web users aware of the regulations, so they can make complaints. It also recommends that children be informed about privacy protection. The study found that children are often encouraged to give away friends' contact details in online promotions. Dr Agnes Nairn, an expert in the area of children and marketing and contributor to the report, said that although people were alert to 'stranger danger' online, 'our concern is that parents are not aware of the pervasive and often covert format and content of some advertising found on sites popular with children'. The report looked at 40 sites that are popular with children, as well as using discussion groups among parents and children. Full findings can be found on the NCC website. Marketers are moving budget online as the government clamps down on advertising of unhealthy foods on television, and as more children spend time using the internet.

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