'Digital child labour' – GP hits out at 'mumfluencers' using their kids to make money 6 months ago

'Digital child labour' – GP hits out at 'mumfluencers' using their kids to make money


We are living in a time where social media matters a lot. Both for people personally, who use the various platforms to share snippets of their own lives, get inspiration, connect with friends – or strangers, and simply keep up on news and trends.

But also in growing numbers as a career in its own as digital influencers.

Social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook have also become a massive force to be reckoned with when it comes to shopping and consumerism – meaning we are seeing more and more 'influencers' using social media as a source of income.

But while it is one thing to share snippets from our own lives and homes and wardrobes on social media for the world to see, what about our kids?

And while 'organic' pictures are one thing (a trip to the park for ice cream a beach day, the last day of school), what about sponsored posts where the children are clearly working alongside the mum promoting various products?

The power of mumfluencers

According to a paediatric consultant, we need much stricter controls on the brands and influencers that share photos of children on social media.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast earlier this week, Dr Niamh Lynch thinks we need to re-think how we use images of children on social media – calling for an end to what she called ‘digital child labour."


She also points out that children's right to privacy and safety were being breached without their consent, and often for financial gain.

"Without picking one example - and that wouldn’t actually be fair because I think a bit of responsibility has to be taken by the social media companies themselves and by the companies that use these parents - but certainly there would be tales of children being clearly unhappy or tired or not in the mood and yet it has become their job to promote a product or endorse a product or whatever,” Lynch said.

“These children are doing work and because they’re young, they can’t actually consent to that. Their privacy can sometimes be violated and there is a whole ethical minefield around it.”

'Digital child labour'

Lynch also said Ireland needs tighter legislation to protect children’s rights and privacy – and to ensure there is total transparency about the money changing hands.

“People don’t realise that these children are working,” she said.

“These children are doing a job. It is a job that can at times compromise their safety. It is a job that compromises their privacy and it is certainly a job they are doing without any sort of consent."

Lynch argues that  legislation can be tricky.

“So yes, I would say there needs to be tighter legislation around it. It needs to be clear because very often it is presented within the sort of cushion of family life and the segue between what is family life and what is an ad isn’t always very clear."

She adds:

“There needs to be more transparency really about transactions that go on in the background.”

"There is a major issue around child safety when so much person l information is being shared.  The primary concern would be the safety of the child because once a child becomes recognisable separate to the parent then there’s the potential for them to become a bit of a target,” she said.

“When you think about how much is shared about these children online, it is pretty easy to know who their siblings are, what their date of birth is, when they lost their last tooth, what their pet’s name is. There is a so much information out there about certain children and there are huge safety concerns around that then as well.”