Young children are constantly exposed to ads for gambling, dating services and sexualised imagery online, Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus has said on Safer Internet Day.
This follows a recent report from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which discovered that one in eight parents with children aged 5 to 15 aren’t aware of, or don’t know how to install, the internet tools available to keep their children safe online.
Faida said: “With four in five children (81 per cent) going online at home, it is vital that parents are aware of the tools available to keep their children safe from unsuitable content. The growth in online gaming and interactive websites mean children as young as five can competently navigate their way around the internet.”
Online adverts are often embedded on websites from other sources, it is unlikely that web filters - the primary way many parents protect their children from online content - will pick them up.
While most adults are fairly confident at recognising and closing adverts of this nature, Faida suggests that for younger users, these can cause confusion and even distress: “This is all well and good but parents need to realise such measures do not go far enough. The growth in online advertising mean marketers and advertisers are operating in a very competitive field and are therefore becoming more aggressive in their tactics to ensure their message is seen and clicked through.
“Many parents are understandably concerned about the risk of their children making online purchases on their behalf, and whilst this is something to watch out for, the risk of them viewing illicit material should be made a bigger priority. A child could be innocently clicking away when something pops up that gets their attention and they click through, opening up to content of a very adult nature.”
Adblock Plus has seen download figures of two million per week.