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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent watchdog responsible for ensuring ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful. It responds to concerns about ads, taking quick and effective action against those that break the rules.

These actions are based on its expert knowledge of the rules which place a particular emphasis on protecting children.

In this section, you’ll find some useful tips for helping protect your child in a multi-media world.

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Advertising rules

Parents are the ultimate watchdogs. They act as gatekeepers; monitoring the media that their children have access to and consume and making their own judgment calls on what is and is not appropriate.

Have open discussions with your child about the media they access. Talk to them about whether they've seen any ads that are inappropriate. If they have, the ASA want to hear about it. It shares parents’ concerns about protecting children and won’t hesitate to take action to have an ad that could result in a child’s physical, mental or moral harm removed.

Familiarise yourself with the ad rules around children. Doing so will give you a better idea of whether you have grounds for a complaint.

The time of day, the type of programme and the likely audience all influence what can be advertised on TV. That’s why ads for food and drink products that are high in fat, salt or sugar can’t be shown in or around programmes targeted at or likely to appeal to children. Similarly, age-restricted products such as alcohol and gambling are subject to scheduling rules as well as content rules that mean, even if children do see them, they are not likely to appeal to them. The ASA has also issued strict guidance to outdoor advertisers about where the line will be drawn when depicting sexual themes and images.

The rules go further. Read the sections on Children in the Advertising Codes for TV and Radio and Non-broadcast.

ASA resources

The ASA has created a range of resources for consumers on that are designed to explain its role, the rules surrounding advertising, why they are in place, the complaints that it receives and examples of its rulings. The ‘Hot Topics’ series provides a useful guide on sensitive issues or areas of specific concern to the public. The ones on ‘Children’, 'Food and Drink', 'Alcohol' and 'Gambling' may be of particular interest.

The ASA encourages anyone who has concerns about potentially inappropriate or harmful ads that children may see or hear to get in touch. It’s happy to hear directly from parents and young people.

You can also get in touch with the ASA via ParentPort’s Have Your Say section.

Explore Ad:Check with your child

Ad:Check is a free resource created for secondary schools to help children become better equipped to understand and critically assess ads.

The resource is intended to help young people explore the topical and sometimes controversial issues surrounding advertising, but there’s no reason why these discussions should be restricted to school time. You can use them for inspiration at home – or perhaps suggest Ad:Check is explored as an activity in clubs your child might attend, like debating groups, GirlGuiding, Scouts or church groups.

Have a read through the material for ideas on how to discuss advertising and the pressures of the commercial world.

Want to find out more?

You can read more about the ASA on ParentPort’s Find Out More page.

If you think an alcohol product is being marketed inappropriately or in a way that could appeal to your child, you can complain to the alcohol industry regulator – the Portman Group.

Its Code of Practice applies to all pre-packaged alcohol products sold or marketed in the UK and covers any activity which falls outside Ofcom or the ASA’s remit. This includes drinks packaging, product name, sports and music event sponsorship and point of sale materials. It does not cover drinks brought in licensed premises. Products which break these rules will be taken off shelves and irresponsible promotions must be withdrawn.