How can we effectively rein in the online kid celebrity biz?
  ·  2021-12-28  ·   Source: NO.52 DECEMBER 30, 2021

The past two years have witnessed a growing number of live-streaming accounts on various social media platforms that see parents record their kids' cuteness for the online world to see—and like. In extreme cases, this has spurred the phenomenon of parents molding their children into popular online influencers and then raking in the big bucks by tapping into the highly lucrative pond of live-stream marketing. 

China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently released a new guideline on the protection of minors in the live-streaming industry, forbidding all commercial undertakings pertaining to children.

The new instructions, met with the applause from people across the nation, take into full consideration the negative impact any type of online performance may have on children. Eating away at their homework time and completely compromising their privacy, live-streaming can also instill in them distorted values such as money worship.

Zhang Dongmei (Guangzhou Daily): In some extreme cases, kids were overfed so badly by their parents during live-stream eating shows that their physical and psychological health were severely damaged. Apart from the kid influencers themselves, sometimes, minor audiences can be also misled by influencer misconduct presented as "funny" on live-streaming platforms.

Some of these kids have millions or even tens of millions of followers, and their endorsement makes a product more noticeable and compelling to the customers than that of many adult influencers, and so they gain the favor of capital. Tempted by the huge profits potentially resulting from live-streaming, some parents deliberately turn their kids into social media stars, with a blatant disregard for their futures and prospects. In this sense, to prohibit minors under the age of 16 from engaging in live-stream performances is a heavy blow to those who rely on their offspring for income and those businesses that take advantage of these children.

Wei Shan (Hengyang Evening News): Envying the huge incomes some influencers boast, some parents simply cannot resist temptation and force their children to put on their best online face. By doing so, however, they are pushing their children to the edge of the cliff.

Minors are generally easily deceived by inappropriate behavior. When being a kid influencer brings you massive gains with very little input, many may start to turn their nose up at going to school and getting an education. In their minds, it's easy to make big money without ever making the effort, so why "waste" time and energy studying? This mindset might have a lasting negative impact on them.

A nation's prospects are put at risk when more and more minors get involved in online "performing" and dream of becoming influencers who make easy money. It is of the most urgent necessity to prevent children from tumbling into the pitfalls of the online influencer economy.

Wang Changlian (Beijing Youth Daily): Accounts of cute kids are surely courted by various short-video and live-streaming platforms, as they can easily produce huge followings and thus add to the platforms' traffic. I'm okay with children starring occasionally in the commercials. However, the easy money made by live-streaming all day long will do irreversible harm to the children in question, possibly devouring their healthy aspirations for the future and rendering them academically incapable because of a resistance to go to school and hit the books.

It's great that the latest guideline, together with pervious regulations on live-stream marketing, pays attention to these issues, but far more important is to ensure the strict implementation of these rules and regulations. Also, there should be a complete live-streaming application and approval system, so that minor streamers can be denied "access" in the first place. Likewise, it's important for watchdogs to track the content of live-streaming, and once minors are found to be involved in the presentation, all relevant accounts should be held accountable—or even shut down.

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

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