05/24/2013 03:44 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2013

Can Facebook Ads Affect Your Child?


Most ads on Facebook are seen but not clicked, yet they can impact users, especially kids who shouldn't really see some of the ads.

So here's a problem: Facebook imposes a minimum age of 13 years old before you can create an account. As a result, if a child signs up for Facebook indicating she is 13 years old -- but is really 10 years old -- when she is 15 years old, Facebook thinks she's 18 and "legal." As an adult, Facebook ads can change to cater to the adult 'buyer.'

Thus, one challenge with Facebook ads is that kids might be exposed to mature ads simply because they told a white lie about their age when signing up.

Can you block Facebook ads or opt out of ads showing on your account? "No" is the official Facebook answer. Facebook says, "Ads help keep Facebook free."

What can you do about that?

If you sit with your child and look at the ads served up when she is using Facebook, you can click on the upper-right corner of ads that are inappropriate and select and "X" to "Hide this Ad" or to "Hide All Ads from XYZ Company." Once you do that, you're asked to indicate why you want the ad hidden. If you click on "sexually explicit" or "misleading" or "against my views" or "offensive," Facebook records your response and will begin to modify the types of ads served.

You'll need to repeat these steps a few times on a few more ads before those you deem inappropriate will stop being shown. In addition, you'll need to check periodically for new types of ads being served up to your child.

In fact, if you don't want weight loss ads or insurance ads, the same process works to remove those from being shown.

Now since a majority of Facebook ads are not clicked, you might wonder... if only a few people click on Facebook ads, what's the point of having them? For one, Facebook needs to generate revenue. But also, clicking on ads doesn't really matter.

Why? Farhad Manjoo of Slate says, "It's a fact well-known to advertisers, though it's not always appreciated by people who use Facebook or even by folks in the Web ad business: Clicks don't matter." He continues, "Whether you know it or not... ads on Facebook are working. Sponsored messages in your feed are changing your behavior -- they're getting you and your friends to buy certain products instead of others, and that's happening despite the fact that you're not clicking, and even if you think you're ignoring the ads."

This type of marketing is designed to generate demand for a product. Ads subtly creep up on viewers even days after the first exposure. During a time of evaluation and decision, brands shown in ads run through a user's head and remind them of promises given or images viewed.

How are Facebook ads influencing you? How are they influencing your child or teenager? If you want to hide certain types of ads, you've been told how to do that. Other than that, you can simply decide to stop using Facebook. Let's see how that goes at home.

Note: I work for Net Nanny; opinions expressed here are my own.