Deputies called for tougher laws to protect influential children who have gained notoriety on social media such as TikTok and Instagram.
A report published by the Committee on Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport (DCMS) found that employment laws are not keeping up in the digital age and that some children are being pressured and exploited by their parents for financial gain.
“This report reflected the concerns of an industry where light, camera, and inaction have been considered for too long,” said MP Julian Knight, chairman of the DCMS committee. “Now the government needs to change the rules to keep up with the changing digital landscape and provide adequate protection for all.”
According to an Ofcom report for 2021, up to half of children were said to have watched video bloggers or YouTube influencers.
The report argues that while children’s culture of influence can provide a platform for different voices and communities, it can expose young people to misinformation and harmful messages.
“With the speed with which the Internet is emerging, security and safety measures are often at the forefront of the list of priorities in favor of gaining followers,” said Jake Moore, ESET’s Global Cybersecurity Adviser.
The report recommends that children, parents and schools need better support in developing youth media literacy. It was also found that the Advertising Standards Agency needs to do more to tighten disclosure standards for child-centered online advertising.
“Some people still think that security settings are too difficult to use or configure, but the reality is that settings like two-factor authentication often take just a few seconds to add a stronger level of protection,” Moore added.
Knight added: “Children’s viewers, who are still developing digital literacy, pose a particular danger in an environment where things are not always as they seem.”
In response, the report called on the government to do more regarding the gap in child labor in the UK and to regulate performance.
The new legislation on influential people should describe in detail the provisions on working hours and conditions, protection of the child’s wages, the right to terminate and transfer child labor agreements under the supervision of local authorities, the report said.
Another issue that was addressed in the report was the low compliance of influential people with the rules of UK advertising.
In 2020, 35% of the 24,000 Instagram posts of 122 influential people based in the UK were not clearly labeled as advertising, according to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).