Watchdog is calling for new rules on sponsored Instagram posts involving influencers’ children

The children’s watchdog has warned that young people appearing sponsored Instagram posts should be protected by new advertising standards rules.

children’s ombudsman Dr. Niall Muldoon has called for a “gap” in guidelines to be closed, referring specifically to instances where parents are paid.

It came as Penneys balked at its policy of paying influencers who use their children to advertise the store’s clothing on social media.

Penneys does not enter into influencer contracts with anyone under the age of 18, but the children of Irish influencers may be filmed wearing Penneys’ clothing as part of Instagram advertising deals with their parents.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland has guidelines stating that children should not be shown online in unsafe or indecent situations.

But there is no guideline governing whether or how parents should include their children in sponsored posts. A spokeswoman for the ASAI said she was “not aware of any other current guidance from the perspective of the ASAI code that would apply in this area.”

Dr Muldoon told the Irish independent he believed there may have been a gap in the social media guidelines for children, which needed to be closed.

“With the growth of social media, it’s not surprising to see children in content alongside their parents,” he said. “It is up to parents, with their children, to decide what is right for them, and to consider what is in their child’s best interests.

“However, when it comes to paid advertising, standards and guidelines are needed to help brands and organizations promote and protect the best interests of children.

“I am aware that Section Seven of the ASAI Code, which relates to children and sets out a number of matters related to advertising involving children, applies to all types of advertising, including online advertising.

“However, I am not aware of any specific standards or guidelines aimed at advising brands and organizations on their responsibilities with regard to children in circumstances where influencers are paid to promote a product online and on social media, and include their child or children in the relevant posts. If there is a gap here, it is important that it is addressed, and in a child-centred way.”

There have been instances of Irish influencers showing their own children on social media when they were paid to promote products or brands.

This has happened in a number of posts paid for by Penneys, where children of influencers were filmed in clothes from the international budget clothing brand.

A spokesman for Primark, which trades as Penneys in Ireland, has said it does not enter into influencer contracts with anyone under the age of 18.

But Primark told Irish independent that influencers featuring their own children in paid social media posts promoting Penneys children’s clothing does not violate the store’s policies.

“Primark requires all influencers we work with to comply with all applicable laws, regulations and codes of practice, including the guidelines of the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland,” said a spokesperson.

“We require all social media posts made by affected influencers to be socially responsible, not harmful to persons, and not illegal, and we do not enter into influencer contracts with anyone under the age of 18.

“We do not plan to change our policy in the short term. However, we are committed to regularly reviewing how we work with influencers in line with best practices and guidelines.”