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Have kids or teens? If they’re online or using apps or game consoles, they’re also dealing with ads. Sometimes they’ll know it. But what happens when the line between ads and games and other content gets blurred?  

Sometimes it’s a teen not realizing their favorite influencer was paid to feature a product. Or a kid not knowing a company is behind that video of a kid unboxing a new toy. Or it’s an ad woven into the gameplay in an online game or virtual reality world.

A new FTC Staff Perspective, Protecting Kids from Stealth Advertising in Digital Media, takes a closer look at these kinds of ads, and includes some of the main takeaways from an October 2022 FTC workshop where experts looked into the potential harms of blurred advertising and discussed possible solutions. Among other things, research presented at the workshop showed that many kids and teens can’t always tell something is an ad if it’s blended into surrounding content.

The bottom line for the FTC? Parents shouldn’t have to go this alone. Businesses, influencers, and anyone else involved in marketing to kids and teens online should make the difference between ads and content crystal clear. FTC staff recommend a clear separation between content and ads, disclosures and icons to flag advertising, and education for kids, parents, and teachers. Platforms should consider policies, tools, and controls to address blurred advertising, too.

Check out the Staff Perspective and recommendations to find out more.

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September 14, 2023

What the heck is happening. To this world when business can do what ever they want without consequence?! We need to stop people from worshipping the dollar and start being responsible

September 15, 2023

In reply to by April

You are so right, the mighty dollar speaks before concern for our nations children.

September 14, 2023

You must protect any one under 18 years old. No matter what!

September 14, 2023

While I agree we should protect children and teens from stealth ads, I think we should also protect adults. Consumer protection laws haven’t kept up with changing technology and the fact more people are going online for entertainment. Corporations are happily taking advantage of the loophole, at consumer’s expense.

Patricia in Missoula
September 15, 2023

In reply to by KMS

We've been fighting that fight since The Hidden Persuaders was written -- 1969? something like that. What we need in our education is critical thinking.

Charles Sorrentino
September 15, 2023

In reply to by KMS

I agree with your statement in principle. Consumer pushback is a strong motivator for change. Too many adults fail to understand how to protect their computer data and use caution online. Commercial ads rely heavily on click bait headlines, etc.

Pat Jorczak
September 15, 2023

It should be a law not to be so dishonest. Nasty!

Anon Curious L…
September 18, 2023

This document is great but while the FTC gave many examples of blurred advertising, it didn't create an actual definition to explicitly outline what blurred advertising means for children under a certain age. Could you guys please create an actual definition so that it is clear what this term means?