A new digital code designed to protect children’s privacy and shield them from inappropriate online ads and engagement tactics has come into effect in the UK.

The Age Appropriate Design Code, which was written into law last Thursday (2nd September), will force big tech companies to make major changes to their services to ensure that they are safer for young people.

Moving forward, companies will need to minimise the data collected when children browse the web, switch off geo-tracking services that can identify where they are located, and generally deliver a maximum level of privacy by default.

Other requirements include the end of tactics that encourage children to keep consuming content, and forms of targeted advertising.

The changes have been made to forge a “better internet for children” after the Information Commissioner’s Office raised concerns that the previous status quo could be emotionally and financially harmful.

Any company in breach of the code will first be offered support to make changes, but could then be potentially fined up to 4% of global turnover in the same way as it would for GDPR issues.

“One in five UK internet users are children, but they are using an internet that was not designed for them,” information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said.

She added that internet safety for children will soon become “second nature”.

Several social media sites have already made changes in anticipation of the new privacy law.

YouTube has turned off autoplay for videos and prohibited ad targeting, while TikTok has suspended notifications for teenagers after a 9pm or 10pm “curfew”.