CGI Instagram and YouTube stars developed by AI tech companies on the rise which are becoming increasingly popular amongst young people and children. We want to encourage parents with advice on how to help their children be more critical of online content – following the rise of the AI influencer.
AI influencers are made via CGI (computer-generated imagery) by companies to make their influencer marketing campaigns more effective. Lil Miquela, Blawko, Bermudaisbae and Shudu are some of the more popular personalities on an ever-expanding list of artificially created social media stars who are changing the narrative around the future of the online celebrity. They look very realistic, move and express emotions like humans.
Parents are being encouraged to have a conversation with their kids about ‘picture perfect’ virtual influencers and the risks they may pose to their wellbeing including online manipulation. A study carried out by researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology showed humans are able to empathise with robots in a similar way to how they do with humans.
Brands using AI influencers can potentially use this emotion to help them monetise engagement and manipulate users into buying their latest products. In many cases, the AI influencers image has been designed by gathering data on trends and bringing those trends into one picture-perfect image – to increase popularity.
New research has found that two-thirds of parents (65%) have concerns that the lives portrayed in online vlogs give kids unrealistic expectations about real life. While 69%* of parents admit they find it difficult to know whether certain vlogs or vloggers are suitable for their kids.
Organisations and companies create virtual influencer accounts in a bid to cash-in on social media trends and help raise awareness of brands among an online audience. The computer-generated aspirational images posted by the virtual influencers, often include portrayals of the perfect body or lifestyle that are unattainable.
Internet Matters ambassador and psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos has warned of the potential ‘damaging effects’ virtual influencers can have on a child’s self-esteem, body image and understanding of ‘real life’.
She said: “The new iteration of the virtual influencer gives brands and corporations the ability to create posts that feature perfect men or women who can speak to a largely young audience at the click of a button. Parents need to equip their children with all of the information. Speak to your child about these accounts in the same way you would with a real-life influencer, encourage your children to think critically about what they are viewing.
Get them to de-personalise these accounts by asking some key questions, who is creating these posts, who are they targeting, why are they wearing those clothes and promoting those products? Allowing your child to ask questions will highlight to them the manipulated nature of these accounts and images.”
CEO of Internet Matters Carolyn Bunting said: “Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and AI influencers are the latest way for tech companies to reach their target market.
It’s essential parents get to grips with the latest emerging online trends and have regular, open and honest conversations with their children about what they see and consume online.
Improving a child’s digital literacy and building their resilience is the best way to empower them to navigate their own online world both safely and responsibly.”
We want to encourage parents to empower their children to think critically about what they are consuming online and have created age-specific digital resilience guides in response.
Below, we have devised tips for parents on how to protect their children from the digital manipulation of virtual influencers across the top online platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube:
*Research commissioned by Internet Matters, carried out by Trinity McQueen of 2,000 UK parents of children aged four to 16.
**Survey of 2,022 parents of children aged 14-16 years old in the UK