Children and Digital Marketing: Rights, risks and responsibilities

UNICEF has just published a new discussion paper on Children and Digital Marketing: Rights, risks and responsibilities complementing the Children's Rights and Business in a Digital World series.

Developed taking into account input and feedback from a range of key stakeholders, specifically those of a digital marketing working group (advertising and tech agencies, marketers, producers and influencers), the discussion paper is based on the premise that children and teenagers are an extremely powerful consumer group. They not only have the technology to exercise commercial influence, but they can also influence their parents' purchasing options. However, according to UNICEF, while "children's ability to critically engage with traditional broadcasting marketing techniques was limited by their inexperience, innocence and immaturity, their capacity to avoid the impacts of stealth advertising is, arguably, non-existent".

Unsurprisingly in this context, the question concerning the position children occupy in the advertising ecosystem arises. For this very reason, in this discussion paper, UNICEF emphasises time and again the importance of children being seen as "rights holders, entitled to be protected from violations of their privacy and deserving an internet free from manipulative and exploitative practices".


digital marketing ecosystem scheme, child in front of PC, branded, influencer, location targeting

Source: UNICEF


According to UNICEF, "children must not be treated as simply another consumer group to be exploited or avoided by industry. It is time to formalise and strengthen constraints on advertising to ensure that their best interests come before information and monetisation". But knowing that nowadays the online environment covers almost all aspects of our lives (work, commerce, education, relationships, and so on), how can children take full advantage of the opportunities existing online without endangering their personal data? It is precisely what the paper intends to do – provide insight in today's digital marketing landscape from a child rights perspective and provide a basis for marketing practices that better protect children's rights.

Finally, it outlines drivers and features of the current situation and concludes with a brief description of the regulatory context. More importantly, the paper also turns to marketing actors, breaking down their roles in the value chain and potential interferences with children's rights. As the basis for ongoing discussion, the paper offers suggestions for the next steps and opportunities for positive change and aims to result in a toolkit providing guidance to industry on policy elements and actions necessary for responsible marketing.

To read the full discussion paper, visit the UNICEF website.

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