Facebook underlines parental role in preventing children from lying about age

Facebook says that the Advertising Standards Authority's finding that 40% of children pretend to be over 18 when they register with social networks 'highlighted an important issue', but stressed that parents and schools should be playing a more preventative role.

Facebook: claims parents should be more proactive over age issue
Facebook: claims parents should be more proactive over age issue

Facebook’s comments are a response to a news story published today on Marketing, which found that more than 40% of children are signing up to social media networks by claiming to be older than 18, subjecting them to targeted advertising for gambling, alcohol, slimming aids and sexual dating services.

Facebook said that while the ASA report recognises that advertisers can be "confident that their adverts are reaching the type of people they want to", there is little more it can do when children lie, beyond the measures it currently has in place. 

The social network said that there is no online equivalent to the driving licence or ID card, making age verification a challenge for internet firms; adding that it provides people with tools to report people under 13 and that people can report ads that are inappropriate.

"But when children lie about their age, that value and intention can be undermined," a Facebook spokesperson told Marketing. "It's important for parents, schools, safety organisations – like Childnet and FOSI – and platforms like ours to encourage children not to do this.

"Simply put they will have a better experience if they don't lie. Technology can help to spot children who do, but there's no substitute for action by people who know the child in the real world. The ASA have highlighted an important issue and we are committed to continue to work with them, our clients and others to address this."

The ASA examined ads served to children on social networks including Facebook, YouTube, Stardoll and Twitter as part of resarch aimed at finding out what ads they engage with online, when it unearthed kids were lying about their ages. 

Of the 218 ads served to those who had lied about their age, 11% were for products that should not be targeted at under 18s. Of the 427 ads seen by the entire sample, 98% adhered to advertising rules.

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