Best practice on social media urged over targeting of children

Social media must be looked at when it comes to preventing the inappropriate targeting of children, PR figures have said following a new survey on the issue.

Targeting children: 90 per cent of parents questioned the way some companies market products to kids
Targeting children: 90 per cent of parents questioned the way some companies market products to kids

A year after the Bailey Review, which focused on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, research has revealed that 90 per cent of parents still think there are problems with the way some companies market their products to kids.

The review mainly focused on the worlds of marketing and advertising. However, the CIPR and PRCA were among those to sign up to a good practice-focused Brand Ambassador pledge in response to its findings.

CIPR director of policy and communications Phil Morgan encouraged PROs to sign up to the Advertising Association’s pledge ‘to show their commitment to best practice’.

 ‘It’s important PR people are aware of the need to have guidelines for communicating with children, particularly with things like social media and peer to peer marketing,’ he said.

He added: ‘Where you’re using children to communicate with children that’s a key area of consideration. We want PR professionals to be aware of the issues around whether it’s ethical for communicators to target children for pester power. There’s more than just professional concern about this – it’s been pushed by the PM and is of obvious concern to parents.’

The Bailey Review came out after a six-month study led by the Mothers' Union chief executive, Reg Bailey, with the support of David Cameron.

However this week's survey, carried out by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), also revealed that more than 85 per cent of parents were unaware of the existence of ParentPort, a marketing complaints and advice website launched as a result of the review.

 Its findings come shortly after it emerged that Facebook was working on technology to allow children under the age of 13 to use the site with the supervision of adults.

 A spokesman for the PRCA said: ‘As public relations continues to take ownership of social media, it is important that we do not slip into the bad practice of employing children to promote products online. The PRCA has signed up to the Brand Ambassador pledge, and following confirmation from our Best Practice Committee, will urge all our members to sign up too.’

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