Gulf Today: Manicured children strut down the catwalk at a Beijing fashion show, one of thousands of events driving huge demand for child models in China that insiders warn leaves minors vulnerable to physical abuse, 12-hour-days and unrelenting pressure from pushy parents.
The kids’ apparel market is growing faster than any other clothing sector in the country and was worth more than $40.5 billion in 2018 according to Euromonitor. This combined with the rise of “kidfluencers” sponsored by brands to promote products on social media is spurring greater demand for young models — but experts warn of the heavy cost of pursuing such deals.
A video of a mother kicking her three-year-old daughter in fury at her failure to comply during a modelling job went viral earlier this year, causing outrage online.
Child models sometimes go through more than 100 outfit changes in a session, often working from morning till night. But mental health experts warn it is not just physical exhaustion they have to contend with — there may be long term emotional implications.
“Children from the age of zero to six are mentally developing, they need a lot of exploration and freedom,” explained child psychologist Gong Xueping. “At work, the child model will deliberately show a lot of different expressions… but this is contrary to the child’s own feelings of the moment. This limits the development of both emotional abilities and more complex psychological abilities for children, so I think it’s a very bad choice,” Gong added.