Publication of the “Study on the impact of marketing through social media, online games and mobile applications on children’s behaviour”

May 26, 2016


We are glad to announce that the Final Report of the “Study on the impact of marketing through social media, online games and mobile applications on children’s behaviour” conducted by Open Evidence Staff in Consortium with the Londons School of Economics and Block de Ideas has been published and is ready for download.

The study, which has been conducted using various methods including behavioural experiments with children in two countries, assesses the degree and ways in which sophisticated marketing techniques influence the behaviour of children and sheds light on the effectiveness of the existing consumer protection measures provided by the Member States and/or industry to alleviate consumer vulnerability in the online environment. The aim of this research is to provide an understanding of the new and dynamic channels of online marketing directed towards children and to provide policy-relevant recommendations to the European Commission on alleviating the vulnerability of children exposed to sophisticated online marketing.

The study finds that children are exposed to a number of problematic marketing practices in online games, mobile applications and social media sites, which are not always understood by the child consumer. At the same time, across Europe children do not receive an equal level of protection from the adverse effects of online marketing. This is because marketing to children is regulated in a slightly different manner between countries and because parents apply different models of oversight of their children’s online activities. The study is relevant in particular because it confirms the need for a strong and harmonised protection of children as consumers, and it brings new evidence that advances the understanding of children as potentially vulnerable consumers and of marketing practices that can be considered unfair from the perspective of child consumers. It will inform the revision of the UCPD Guidance and the ongoing review of EU consumer and marketing law. It also provides evidence to support the ban on product placement in programmes with a significant children audience in the proposed Directive on Audio- Visual Media Services.

By pointing to online marketing practices that affect children, the study has broader relevance in the context of the Digital Single Market, as the uneven protection of children online across the EU might affect consumer trust in cross-border providers of online content. The results of the study will thus inform the equal enforcement of consumer rights across the European Union.