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 as mediators between children and mobile advertising. This study explores 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 aged between 5 and 16 in three Spanish-speaking countries: Mexico, Spain and Colombia. Participants in the three countries were recruited via online social media networks and were asked to fill in an online survey. A questionnaire adapting items in previous literature regarding mobile advertising context and population of interest was designed. Cross-country samples of varying size, 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, with an emerging factor known as “Children’s perceived mobile AL”. On the other hand, differences in parents’ perceived knowledge of mobile advertising between the three countries and between parental styles and AL levels were identified, parents with a controlling authoritarian style having more knowledge than those with an indulgent style. Differences were also identified between countries with respect to the amount of exposure that children have to mobile advertising, while no significant differences were found for the moral dimension. Practical implications – Brand managers and social marketing practitioners 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 programmes for parents.Originality – This article 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 with respect to parental mobile AL profiles and parental control styles, thus expanding the literature on AL with a cross-cultural approach.