Economy, Sci & Tech

Kids Confused by Ads

Kids Confused by AdsKids Confused by Ads

The familiar narrative of teens and technology is one of natural proficiency — that young people just get technology in a way that older generations don’t. But research suggests that just because children feel at home using smartphones, it does not mean they are more aware of the nuances of how the web works.

In a new report published by the UK’s telecoms watchdog Ofcom, researchers found that only a third of young people of ages 12 to 15 knew which search results on Google were adverts, while this figure was even lower — less than one in five — for children of ages 8 to 11.

“The Internet allows children to learn, discover different points of view and stay connected with friends and family,” Ofcom’s director of research, James Thickett, The Verge reports.

“But these digital natives still need help to develop the knowhow they need to navigate the online world.”

In the tests carried out by Ofcom earlier this year, children were shown screenshots of Google search results for the term “trainers” and asked whether the results at the top of the page were either a) ads, b) the most relevant results, or c) the most popular results.

Despite the fact that these topmost search results were outlined in an orange box and labeled with the word “Ad,” they were only recognized as such by 31% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 16 % of 8- to 11-year-olds.

This lack of awareness of the role of advertisers in the web’s ecosystem was also noticeable when it came to young people and YouTube. Ofcom’s researchers found that for the first time since they had conducted the annual survey, more 12 to 15-year-olds said they preferred watching YouTube over traditional TV than the other way round.

In addition, more than half (53%) of those surveyed in this same age group were unaware that bloggers might be paid to endorse certain products.