The children report instances of dumped litter
The Local Government Association has confirmed that children are being paid to patrol London streets to report graffiti, fly-tipping and dog fouling.
But the chair of its environment board, Paul Bettison, said the youngsters were not being asked to "shop" offenders.
Suggestions the children were spying on parents or neighbours were "exaggerated", Mr Bettison said.
He told BBC London: "They are not being paid to snoop. They are being rewarded for reporting graffiti or refuse."
No council would involve children in making contact with people actually perpetrating crime, Mr Bettison continued.
He confirmed the children - aged from 8 to 10 - were given code names and "hot lines" to use when reporting back, describing them as incentives.
"To encourage young people you need to get them excited about the idea," he said.
The children's reporting enabled local authorities to respond quickly and deal with fly-tipping or graffiti more promptly.
"We also want local residents to tell us of instances of such anti-social activity," Mr Bettison said.
"No-one wants to see these things in the area where they live. And graffiti can also be racially sensitive."