Across Europe, children do not receive an equal level of protection from the adverse effects of online marketing due to different marketing regulations to children between countries and parents' different models of oversight of their kids' online activities.
A study funded by the European Commission examined 25 of the most popular online games and discovered that all ‘advergames', all social media games and half of games provided through popular application platforms contained embedded or contextual advertisements. The exposure to prompts to make in-app purchases in mobile games has a significant impact on a child's purchasing behaviour.
Data was also collected through various methods such as behavioural experiments with children in two countries, focus groups with children and parents in eight countries, a survey with parents in eight countries, a literature review and a regulatory review that covered the 28 EU member states, Norway and Iceland.
Developments in technology and online social environments may easily outpace provisions of existing laws. Self-regulation has been put forward to respond flexibly to technological advancements, and industry self-regulatory initiatives on online marketing to children are common in almost all EU member states.
Most parents don't see online marketing targeting their children as a major risk.
Even though parents have an important role to protect their children online, they are often not prepared to do so. When it comes to their children's activities online, parents are mostly concerned with violent images, online buying, data tracking and digital identity theft.
How parents regulate children's online activity varies between countries. For instance, parents in France intervene less while parents in Sweden are more engaged in their kid's online activities and apply more restrictions.“This is a significant study on an already pressing policy issue. The study demonstrated the large impact that online marketing practices can have on children and the difficulty in managing such effects from the perspective of parents and sheds light on their coping strategies. Both these aspects represent a crucial input for policymakers interested in regulating this area,” said Dr Guiseppe Veltri, senior lecturer in social psychology of communication at the University of Leicester department of media and communication.