This is a problem that needs urgent addressing, said the ASA which found that all but four of the 24 children aged between 11 and 15 who participated in the survey registered on a social media site using a false age, and that 10 participants (42 percent) falsely registered themselves as aged 18 or over, while nine were aged below the permitted age of registration on at least one social media site.
The survey also reported that 11 percent of the 218 ads served to those registered as over the age of eighteen, were for products that "must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear".
And while 98 percent of the 427 ads seen by the participants in the survey were in compliance with the ASA rules, many of the children used a false age to register and see ads for age-restricted products, such as gambling, alcohol, slimming aids and overtly sexual dating services.
The ASA therefore revealed that it will present the findings to its council "...with a view to exploring whether we need to take a tighter line on age-restricted ads in social media", and would also ask the body that writes the Advertising Code, the Committee of Advertising Practice, whether new guidance on targeting ads online is needed.
In addition, it noted that "Our report clearly asks questions of social media owners around the effectiveness of age-verification and whether enough is being done to prevent children from accessing age-restricted content on social media sites.
"We will be raising these issues with social media companies."
Commenting on the survey results, the ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "On the face of it, our survey suggests that advertisers are sticking to the rules but children aren't.
"But before we all lay the blame with parents and guardians, we need to be honest. If advertisers and social media companies know that children say they're older than they are, don't they have a crucial part to play too?
"We'll be talking to them about self-declared age-gating and considering whether we need to take a tougher line. But we all need to be part of this conversation about how best to set the boundaries within which our children explore the world around them."
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