Influencers have become one of the defining features of the social media landscape. Whether you are an avid user of social media or not, you are no doubt aware of what influencers are and the exorbitant salaries that many of them make. Social media influencers get paid just to mention products and businesses. A word from the right influencer can put a brand in front of millions of people in an instant.
The market for social media influencers has been growing steadily for several years now. In 2016, the influencer marketing market was worth $1.7 billion globally. By 2019, this figure had risen to $6.5 billion. This prodigious growth rate is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The reason that digital marketers place such enormous value on the work that influencers do is that they enable them to target specific audiences in a highly effective manner. This audience access is incredibly valuable for marketers who are targeting niche audiences that are hard to reach via other channels.
While social media platforms are legally obligated to keep children under 13 off their platforms, there are many children and impressionable young people on social media. Seeing the wealth and, well, the influence that these social media influencers wield, these children can become envious. There is now a whole generation of kids who aspire to become social media influencers.
But there is a dark side to social media influencers. It is by no means a guaranteed way of making money. What’s more, becoming an influencer requires users to build up as many followers as possible. Encouraging children to pursue these objectives can have some unprecedented consequences for their mental health.
Even before social media, we had plenty of evidence that becoming famous as a child can have disastrous consequences for a person’s emotional development and long-term mental health. There’s no reason to believe that becoming famous on social media would be any better. In fact, there is mounting evidence that children who become social media influencers are susceptible to a variety of problems.
According to Pamela Rutledge, a PhD in media psychology, children’s inability to assess risk and plan for the future makes them especially vulnerable to the very worst effects of social media fame. These are essential cognitive skills that take time to develop. We learn how to assess risk based mainly on life experiences. Child influencers lack the necessary expertise to accurately determine how risky their behaviors are.
Dr Rutledge is among many psychologists who are now sounding the alarm over the unique challenges that social media platforms pose to the health of children and teenagers. Even without influencer culture, the relationship between social media usage and mental health problems in children and adolescents is still poorly understood. But there is a growing pile of evidence to suggest that social media use is harmful to many people’s emotional wellbeing.
Could Your Child Be an Influencer?
As a parent, it can be hard to strike the right balance between allowing your children online freedom and shielding them from the more damaging aspects of the internet. If your child is an avid YouTuber, it is only natural for you to want them to succeed. Having a creative outlet is beneficial for many children, and YouTube is an excellent platform for sharing the content they produce.
The laws surrounding child influencers on social media are not entirely clear. The Child Online Protection Act requires online services to protect the privacy of children and avoid collecting their data without explicit parental permission. If you’re hearing about data collection for the first time, check out this post from web scraping experts at Smartproxy.
When marketers want to approach a child YouTuber, they are supposed to contact the child’s parent. When the parent is overseeing the account, this isn’t an issue. However, many children operate their accounts independently. Many teenagers also have the resources to strike influencer deals and accept money from marketers without their parents’ knowledge.
The problem is that parents are often only vaguely aware of what influencers do. Many parents also see an offer to work as an influencer as an affirmation of their child’s talents. Turning away those kinds of opportunities seems counter-intuitive.
Protecting Your Child
If you have a creative child whose photos, writing or videos are attracting a large fanbase, you shouldn’t discourage them out of an overblown fear of influencers. Instead, it is best to focus on equipping your child with the tools they need to overcome the negative aspects of influencer life.
For example, the more people that are watching and commenting on your child’s content, the more negative responses they will get. They need to know that these negative comments are a reflection of the people making them, not of your child or their work.
The only criticism they should worry about is constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is criticism that comes from people who want to help them improve. It will contain suggestions for how to make better content. It isn’t about tearing the recipient down.
Irrespective of how successful your child becomes on social media, you need to establish and enforce strict boundaries to govern their use. It isn’t healthy for popular content creators to spend too much of their time reading comments. Instead, it is best to have an automated uploading tool that puts new videos online for you. Your child can then set aside a small amount of time each day to deal with admin, read messages, and review comments.
Part of the reason for enforcing usage limits is to prevent your child’s social media use from interfering with the rest of their life. If you can set reasonable rules and help your child stick to them, they can make money from their social media fame without it dominating their life.
Your child’s emotional health and wellbeing is always more important than money. Irrespective of anything else, you should keep your children off social media until they are at least 13 years old. Even then, you should guide their usage so that they can remain safe and healthy.