Better protection for child performers

The Department for Education and Welsh Government have launched a consultation on proposals to update and simplify the legislation on the involvement of children of compulsory school age in a range of performance activities. These proposals draw upon the findings of the exploratory review of the system of regulating child performances conducted by Sarah Thane.

Professor John Oates from the Centre for Childhood Development at the Open University comments:

“I have been very pleased to represent the British Psychological Society and the interests of children and young people in the Thane review, in advice to the Department of Education, as a member of Tim Loughton MP’s advisory group and facilitator of a working group on safeguarding, and then more recently in the preparation of the public consultation.

“With support from other BPS colleagues in the Media Ethics Advisory Group, it has been possible to highlight the importance of recognising the potential risks to children and young people and their vulnerabilities when they engage in performances ranging from reality TV through drama productions to modelling. This focus on risks and the assessment of them is a key part of the proposed new legislation.”

The new proposals suggest that a licence should continue to be required where a child is placed in an artificial circumstance which has been contrived for dramatic or editorial effect and which presents risks the child would not face during the ordinary course of their life. ‘Fly on the wall' programmes, factual documentaries or interviews with children where the circumstances have not been particularly contrived for dramatic or editorial effect will not require licensing.

They also suggest that the current legislation allows little flexibility to local authority licensing officers, who are obliged to spend time chasing and checking paperwork. A new framework is needed so that local authorities can focus on protecting children from real risk, rather than being tied up in the administration of unnecessary bureaucracy.