Understanding content age-gating for SMS in the US and Canada

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You will learn

Learn about age-gating content and why it’s important for SMS marketing.

Canada does not support age-gated content for toll-free numbers. 

This information is not legal advice. Klaviyo recommends that you consult with your legal counsel to make sure that you comply with all applicable laws in connection with your marketing program.

Why age-gating is important for SMS

Compared to most other marketing channels, SMS is subject to more restrictions and heavier scrutinization. Unless the proper age-gating procedures are in place, certain industries cannot use SMS to promote content. Further, failure to comply with these requirements can lead to the suspension of the sending number, an audit, and fines. 

About age-gating for SMS

Age-gating is a technical protection method used to prevent underage people from viewing a website with restricted or inappropriate content. It requires visitors to verify that they are of age by entering their age or birth date before they can view content. 

In the US, certain industries are required to implement age-gating by the CTIA; however, we recommend using it no matter where you’re collecting SMS consent.

Age-gating for SMS has two parts to it — both of which are required. It must prevent underage visitors from: 

  • Seeing content on a website
  • Opting into SMS marketing

If you have a short code, note that age-gated short code programs are approved on a case-by-case basis. 

Blocking content on a website

Say you have an online liquor store in the US. When someone visits your website, a window will block the screen and ask for the visitor’s birthday. If that person is 21 or older, they will be able to access your full website and view your content. Anyone younger than 21 will see a message saying that they cannot view the website’s content and will not be able to view anything else. 

age verification on website requiring user to enter birthday

To set up an age gate, you’ll need to use a third-party tool that works with your ecommerce platform. Check your ecommerce platform’s app store to see what’s available. 

Preventing visitors from subscribing

One option is to include an age gate within your SMS signup form. That way, someone must verify their age before they even become an SMS subscriber. 

For this type of age gate, you’ll need to use a third-party signup form that can collect consent based on age. Further, this form will need to sync SMS consent to Klaviyo via API

Note that text-to-join is not considered age-gating. Part of age-gating is preventing anyone who does not meet the age requirements from subscribing; however, text-to-join allows anyone who sends a subscribe keyword to opt in. 

What industries need to age-gate in the United States 

Many of the industries that are prohibited for SMS can send messages if they have an age gate, although some are allowed only in some instances. 

If your business falls within one of the below categories or if you are planning a promotion featuring specific content, age-gating may be required for compliance.


Allowed with age-gating? 

Number Types


Sex toys and lingerie


Age: 18+

Short code and toll-free numbers

Sexually explicit content





Age: 21+

Short code and toll-free numbers




Sweepstakes (regional laws for sweepstakes may apply)


Age: 18+

Short code and toll-free numbers


Tobacco, e-cigarettes, and related paraphernalia


Age: 18+

Short code only

Illegal Substances

CBD/Cannabis and/or related vaping and paraphernalia - Prohibited globally including the US and CA




Gaming apps, websites, betting apps, casinos



Other prohibited content includes:

  • Hate speech
  • Violence
  • Profanity
  • Illegal drugs

If you are unsure whether or not your industry will be permitted with age-gating, refer to your legal counsel for advice. 

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