Purpose: The use of mobile devices by children and adolescents is increasing significantly; therefore, it is relevant to research the level of advertising literacy (AL) of parents who act as mediators between children and mobile advertising. This study aims to explore the conceptual, moral and attitudinal dimensions of AL and its relationship with different styles of parental control. Design/methodology/approach: A cross-sectional survey was applied simultaneously to a sample of parents with children between 5 and 16 years old in three Spanish-speaking countries: Mexico, Spain and Colombia. Participants from the three countries were recruited via online social media networks and were asked to fill in an online survey. A questionnaire, which has been adapted from previous literature to suit the mobile advertising context and the population of interest, was designed. Cross-country samples of varying sizes, with a predetermined quota of 200 participants for each country, were used. The total sample consisted of 1,454 participants. Findings: Four factors of mobile AL were found, which, to a greater extent, correspond to the dimensions of AL proposed in the literature. The following are the dimensions that were identified: cognitive, moral, attitudinal and an emerging factor is known as “children’s perceived mobile AL.” Differences in parents’ perceived knowledge of mobile advertising, parental control styles and AL levels in the three countries were identified. Parents with an authoritative style were identified to have more knowledge than those with an indulgent style. Differences were also identified between countries concerning the amount of exposure that children have to mobile advertising, while no significant differences were found in the moral dimension. Practical implications: Marketing practitioners and public policymakers must consider that parents differ in some dimensions of AL. Parents also seem to lack adequate knowledge about the advertising tools available to announcers that affect children and adolescents in a mobile communication environment. Therefore, government agencies should consider developing mobile digital media literacy programs for parents. Originality/value: This paper explores the dimensions of AL applied to the mobile context and identifies the level of parental mobile AL in three Spanish-speaking countries, as well as the differences between these sub-samples concerning parental mobile AL profiles and parental control styles, thus expanding the literature on AL with a cross-cultural approach.
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