TV adverts which encourage children to get ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ on social media have been banned as they could be damaging to their ‘mental health and self-esteem’, a watchdog has ruled.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled an ad for the children’s social media app, PopJam, was ‘irresponsible’ as it could cause children to develop “an unhealthy perception that popularity”.
The ruling comes after the app, a social network aimed at seven to 12-year-olds, aired an ad on ITV’s children’s channel, CITV showing off its features, including quizzes and filters.
One scene showed an image of a number rising quickly from 96 to 10,000, with a voiceover saying users could “get likes and followers to level up.”
The advert prompted a complaint to the ASA saying it was “irresponsible” as encouraging kids to “get likes” could be “detrimental to children’s mental health and affect their self-esteem”.
The London-based company behind the app, SuperAwesome Trading Ltd, said PopJam was different to other social media sites, where likes and followers “signified social status”, whereas gaining followers on its app helped users “level-up” and unlock new features.
As such, it said its “get likes and followers” call in the ad was a means to “attain game safisfaction” rather than popularity.
However, the ASA said it considered the “get likes” line “explicitly encouraged” children to seek likes to progress through the app. The watchdog noted that there were other methods of progressing in the app that were not mentioned in the advert.
The ASA concluded that the ad “was likely to cause harm to those under 18 and was irresponsible.”
A spokesman said: “We considered that the suggestion that the acquisition of likes and followers was the only means of progression was likely to give children the impression that popularity on social media was something that should be pursued because it was desirable in its own right.
“We were therefore concerned that the ad’s encouragement to gain likes and followers could cause children to develop an unhealthy perception that popularity on social media was inherently valuable which was likely to be detrimental to their mental health and self-esteem.”