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DCMS Select Committee warns that regulatory gaps are leaving child performers at risk of exploitation.



Urgent action must be taken to update laws around child performers, an influential group of MPs has said.

A report by the DCMS Select Committee warns that the rapid growth in influencer culture, where creators share content on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, has exposed a number of regulatory gaps, particularly around protection for children.

Its inquiry on the issue found that user-generated content is not covered by existing UK regulation that safeguards child performers, leaving them at risk of exploitation because they lack the legal right to the earnings they generate, or recourse to demand safe working conditions and protections via labour laws.


DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said there is a "woeful lack of protection" for young influencers who often spend long hours producing financially lucrative content at the direction of others.

“The rise of influencer culture online has brought significant new opportunities for those working in the creative industries and a boost to the UK economy," Knight said. 

"However, as is so often the case where social media is involved, if you dig below the shiny surface of what you see on screen you will discover an altogether murkier world where both the influencers and their followers are at risk of exploitation and harm online."

Lucrative market

The report found that the child influencer market is "booming", with children featuring in online content across social media platforms, earning income through sponsorship and partnerships with brands. Some are believed to earn in excess of £100,000 a month.

The committee heard concerns during the inquiry that some children in the influencer economy are being used by parents and family members, who in many cases manage their accounts, seeking to capitalise on the lucrative market. It is also feared that posting content about children can affect their privacy and bring security risks.

Under the Children and Young Persons Act (1963) it is a criminal offence for a parent or guardian to allow a child to take part in specified types of performance without a licence, or for any person to cause or procure a child to do. Where a licence is granted, children are not allowed to work before 7am or after 7pm on any day.

Meanwhile, under The Children (Performances & Activities) (England) Regulations (2014) local authorities that issue child performer licences authority can include a condition that any or all of the sums earned by the child for taking part in the performance or activity be "dealt with in a particular manner”, in order to ensure that some, or all of the income goes to them.

But none of the existing legislation applies to "user-generated" content.

The committee has called on government to "urgently address the gap in UK child labour and performance regulation that is leaving child influencers without protection". It wants new legislation to include provisions on working hours and conditions, mandate the protection of the child’s earnings, ensure a right to erasure, and bring the child’s labour arrangements under the oversight of local authorities.

Full-time job

Ed Magee, Chair of the National Network for Child Employment and Entertainment, said that while most children producing self-generated content are spending a small amount of time doing so, for some children who have a very big media following “it is effectively their full-time job”.

“There are certainly children whose lives may be broadcast 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week,” he added.

Magee said that while there are an estimated 10,000 children in England generating content on a regular basis, unlike other children performing in traditional media, “we do not know what they are doing, we do not know how often they are performing, and we do not know the impact it has on them as a child”.

He wants existing UK child performance regulations to be amended to include user-generated content.

"If a child is taking part in film, TV, theatre or modelling they would need to apply for a licence from the local authority where they live," he said.

"The local authority will go through various checks to make sure there are chaperones or appropriate parents who are there. There are set hours they can work and breaks built into that schedule, but self-generated content isn't within the legislation."