Britain's advertising watchdog has signalled tougher regulation for ads featuring gender stereotypes, saying they were potentially harmful to young people.

The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency said a review found that such stereotypes could limit the aspirations of children.

"A tougher line is needed on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes," the ASA report said.

For example, adverts showing a family making a mess and a woman cleaning it up alone, men failing at simple parental or household tasks, or suggestions that an activity was inappropriate for boys because it was stereotypically associated with girls, are depictions likely to prove problematic under the new rules, the watchdog said.

However, the new standards are not intended to ban all gender stereotypes, for example ads depicting a woman cleaning or a man doing home improvement tasks.

"Harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults," the ASA said.

"These stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which plays a part in unequal gender outcomes, with costs for individuals, the economy and society."

Responding to the report, the Committees of Advertising Practice, responsible for writing Britain's advertising codes, will set out new standards on adverts featuring gender stereotypes, which should come into force next year.

The ASA has in the past banned adverts on the grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation and suggesting it is desirable for young women to be unhealthily thin.

"Our review shows that specific forms of gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children," said Ella Smillie, the report's lead author.

"Such portrayals can limit how people see themselves, how others see them, and limit the life decisions they take.

"Tougher standards in the areas we've identified will address harms and ensure that modern society is better represented."