FTC’s call to safeguard children from blurred advertising online

The FTC advises online marketers to avoid blurring advertising, as it makes it difficult for children to differentiate between ads and child-oriented content.

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a new document advising online marketers, including social media influencers, to avoid blurred advertising. Namely, they are called to distinguish advertising from child-oriented content to protect children from potential harm. This recommendation stems from the agency’s October 2022 workshop ‘Protecting Children from Hidden Advertising in Digital Media’, highlighting how blurred advertising makes it challenging for kids to differentiate between ads and content. Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, emphasized that not blurring ads is the most effective way to protect children from potential harm.

During the 2022 workshop, participants deliberated on research findings that indicated a lack of skills among many young consumers to detect or figure out deceptive advertising, which can lead to deception and other types of harm. This includes marketing dangerous items, causing financial harm through unsafe purchases, and being subjected to targeted advertising based on data obtained. It should also be noted that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for protecting children from these dangers, and depending entirely on parents to keep an eye on things is not enough.

As such, the FTC proposed five strategies to limit potential harm, including:

  • The avoidance of blurred advertising by clearly separating kids’ content and ads using formatting and cues.
  • Prominent verbal and written disclosures explaining the commercial nature must accompany product introductions.
  • Icon creation to indicate sponsored content is necessary, with stakeholder cooperation.
  • Education for kids, parents, and teachers on digital advertising is crucial, promoting the use of icons to identify ads and
  • Ensure that platforms enforce content creator self-identification and offer parental controls to restrict children’s exposure to advertising.

Ensuring children’s safety online is paramount in today’s digital landscape. The FTC’s recommendations aim to protect children by promoting transparency and accountability in digital marketing, ensuring their online experiences are safe and free from hidden advertising risks.