Do influencers have an impact on a child’s behaviour? IM experts Dr Elizabeth Milovidov and Lauren Seager-Smith discuss if this is true for preteens (9-13).
Social media influencers can bring excitement and inspiration into the lives of tweens and preteens as they share their experiences online with well-designed settings, scripts, and oftentimes spontaneity. Influencers, like celebrities, can have either a negative or positive influence on their young audiences, and it is crucial that children and young people are able to think critically about what they are viewing.
As Internet Matters ambassador and psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos advises, there are potential negative effects that influencers can have on a « child’s self-esteem, body image and understanding of ‘real life’. As with negative influences in real life, (young children smoking or engaging in inappropriate behaviour), parents and carers can counter those influences by having open and transparent conversations with their children. Having conversations that improve critical thinking and digital literacy about what children experience online is one of the best ways to support them in the digital environment:
Ideal conversation starters for parents and carers include:
There are many factors that impact behaviour, and these are different for every child. As parents and carers, we know our child, their interests, strengths, and vulnerabilities, and should question how big a role influencers play in their life.
If we look at the popular child influencers, we can get a sense of what draws many children in – the ‘beautiful’, the musical and sporty, the pranksters, and the gamers.
Find out what people your child likes, what messages they are reinforcing, whether they make them feel positive and inspired, or whether they make them feel like they’re not good enough. Be conscious of the role of influencers in marketing certain products and lifestyles.
For my children, the pull is online gamers, and this influences what they want and how they spend their time. We must be vigilant and make that as much as it is in our power, we are guiding our children towards the positive, wherever it may be found.
What are some social media influencer safety tips?
Kids nowadays have being an influencer top in their list of professions they want to be. All they need is a social media account, and although most social media platforms have an age limit of 13+, YouTube has been the go-to place for those under this age.
It is normal for kids to look up to a popular influencer or idol of theirs, however, it is always essential to keep an eye on who they watch, the content they watch, and how often.
If your child watches an influencer:
What to watch out for: Influencers tend to use their channels to highlight endorsements or sponsorship deals which means that children may be encouraged to purchase items that they are promoting from a range of brands.
Whether it’s toys, make-up, games, or clothing it’s important to have a conversation with children who may be swayed or under pressure to buy that these recommendations are no different than watching an ad on TV. So, it’s best to do your own research before buying them.
If your child aspires to be an influencer, there are a few things to think about. What is an appropriate age to start, what platforms to use, and how you can keep them safe. Our expert Dr. Tamasine Preece provides all the tips you need to think about in this article: My child wants to be a vlogger, is it safe?
Popular influencers kids are watching
Ava & Alexis McClure
Everleigh Rose Soutas
Claire and the Crosby Family
Although pre-teens and tweens are not yet ready for platforms like TikTok, with the growth in popularity of the platform, the following most popular TikTokers are also worth mentioning:
Spencer Polanco Knight
See more articles and resources to help children stay safe online.