‘Mum, can I play on the internet?’ Parents’ understanding, perception and responses to online advertising designed for children

Lara Spiteri Cornish

Coventry Business School, Coventry University

Introduction

Worldwide, children are becoming ever more connected. In 2012, a survey of 9,000 adult and child internet users in 12 countries, including China, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, found that children spend on average 39 hours per month on the internet – twice as much time as their parents believe (UNICEF 2012). Levels of internet access are highest in the industrial world but are rising rapidly in low- and middle-income countries. Children in some countries spend limited time online (e.g. South Africa: weekly access), while in other areas children access the internet for many hours every day (e.g. Bahrain, Brazil, Europe, the US: daily access, up to five hours). A major study undertaken by the EU (European Union) Kids Online Network showed that, in Europe, 60% of 9–16-year-old users go online every day either at home, in school or on handheld devices, and that it has become commonplace for much younger children to use the internet regularly (Haddon & Livingstone 2012; UNICEF 2012).