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Marketing to children is contentious to say the least, but an understanding of the law is vital for marketers. The UK Government is particularly concerned that businesses comply with marketing codes of behaviour (many of which are voluntary) governing the way they advertise and promote items to children. For example it is illegal to promote cigarettes and alcohol to children. Indeed all smoking-related products carry government health warnings. Junk food is now also being scrutinised.

There are growing numbers of children online, so online protection is becoming the most important element of marketing law in this area. According to a recent report, some 16 million young people under age 18 are online, and over 6 million of these are children aged 12 and under.

Children, like adults, are online, visiting stores – as well as using e-mailgame softwarechat systems, and message boards. But, unlike adults, children often don’t know how to recognise unsafe situations or invalid claims. Children are surprisingly susceptible to things that blink or are animated, look like games, can be personalised, or “do something” or even simply say “click here.” Some unscrupulous Internet companies exploit children’s trusting nature by enticing them to share private information. Children need help with their privacy and security online. If parents decide to allow their children to use the Internet to buy online, they should make sure their children understand how to use and make purchases safely and responsibly.

As a result of this, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), went into effect on April 21, 2000 in the US. This law requires certain commercial websites to post a privacy policy, obtain verifiable parental consent for a child’s information to be submitted online, and offer options regarding disclosure of that information to third parties. The act allows civil penalties for violations. The UK has upgraded a rating system such as seen in the movies.

Glossary: 121 Marketing, Ad Inventory, Ad Server, Advertising, AIDA Marketing Communications Model, Ambush Marketing, Astroturfing, Call to Action, Campaign, Chat, Chat Room, Customer Relationship Marketing, Dark Marketing, Data Protection Act, Database, Database Marketing, Direct Mail, Direct Marketing, E-mail, E-mail Marketing, E-Privacy Directive, Market Research, Opt-in, Opt-in E-mail, Permission Marketing, Privacy, Relationship Marketing, Social Media, Trust

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