Do influencers have an impact on a child’s behaviour?

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).


Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov, Esq

Law Professor and Digital Parenting Expert
Expert Website

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:

  • Do you understand that what you are seeing online is not always true?
  • Does the influencer make money if they have more views, more likes, or more clicks?
  • Does the influencer’s lifestyle reflect real life?
  • How much time do you think the influencer spent to make that video?
  • What is the purpose of the video? Why are they talking about this subject?
  • How do you feel when you watch the influencer? (anxious, fear of missing out, inspired, etc.)
  • How can you choose influencers to watch who make you feel positive?

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:

  • Are the influencers age-appropriate? Get to know which influencers your children are watching. You can simply watch a few of their videos, check out their social media, and perform a google search to see who they are. The Common Sense Media provide YouTube channel review will give you a quick view of what you need to look out for
  • Set ground rules to help them choose appropriate content to watch. You can use our family agreement to get you started
  • Make use of parental control features to help reduce associated online risks. See our parental control how-to guides
  • Consider setting up a family account, such as Google Family Link
  • Use child-friendly apps and platforms, such as YouTube Kids
  • For younger children, create playlists of age-appropriate videos that they’ll enjoy based on their interests
  • Encourage them to think critically about what they see online. While – they may believe everything that their favourite influencer is saying is true it’s important to encourage them to check the information out with other sources and help them differentiate between what is fact and opinion. See our Online Critical Thinking guide for more tips

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

Ryan Kaji

  • Where you can find them: YouTube (Ryan’s World).
  • Number of followers: 20 million on YouTube.
  • What you need to know:
    He is an 8-year old boy based in the US. His content includes unboxing new toys, his family life, and challenges, and fun experiments. He also has his own toy line and home goods.

EthanGamer

  • Where you can find them: YouTube (EthanGamerTV)
  • Number of followers: 2.84 million on YouTube
  • What you need to know: He is a 14-year-old gamer who posts primarily gaming let’s play videos and on his other channels he posts videos featuring challenges, unboxing, and vlogs.

Tiana Wilson

  • Where you can find them: YouTube (ToysAndMe channel)
  • Number of followers: 11.5 million on YouTube
  • What you need to know: Tiana is a 13-year-old YouTuber from England that is active on a range of platforms but primarily YouTube. She posts about Roblox, unboxing, and regularly does giveaways. She is a well-known YouTuber despite being so young.

Kyle Giersdorf

  • Where you can find them: Twitch (Bugha)
  • Number of followers: 4.4 million on Twitch
  • What you need to know: He gained popularity for winning the Fortnite World Champion and is now a professional eSports competitor and posts gaming-specific content across a range of channels.

Lorenzo Greer

  • Where you can find them: YouTube (Tekkerz kid)
  • Number of followers: 1.65 million on YouTube
  • What you need to know: He is an 8-year-old from the UK that creates football video tutorials to support children and young people to grow their skills.

Greta Thunberg

  • Where you can find them: Instagram
  • Number of followers: 11.4 million on Instagram
  • What you need to know: She is an environmentally conscious young person who uses her platform to inspire young people and adults to take steps to save the planet from climate change.

Ava & Alexis McClure

  • Where you can find them: YouTube (McClure Twins)
  • Number of followers: 252K on YouTube
  • What you need to know: They gain popularity on their family channel The Mighty McClures and then created their own channel to post child-specific content.

Everleigh Rose Soutas

  • Where you can find them: YouTube (The LaBrant Fam)
  • Number of followers: 13.1 million on YouTube
  • What you need to know:
    She is an 8-year-old competitive dancer based in the US. She appears with her family on YouTube but also has a following on Instagram. She posts her dance moves with her mum who is a trained dancer.

Claire and the Crosby Family

  • Where you can find them: YouTube (The Crosbys)
  • Number of followers: 3.64 million on YouTube
  • What you need to know:
    This is one of the most well-known families on YouTube. Claire is the most famous out of the bunch and has an Instagram following as well. They post content about family life and challenges.

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:

Charli D’Amelio

  • Follower count: 109.8 Million
  • What are they known for?
    She is known for her viral dance videos, she was originally a competitive dancer.

Addison Rae

  • Follower count: 77.8 Million
  • What are they known for?
    She is known for her dance videos and has her own cosmetics line.

Bella Poarch

  • Follower count: 58.6 Million
  • What are they known for?
    She is known for her lip-sync TikTok videos that have gone viral on the platform.

Zach King

  • Follower count: 57.6 Million
  • What are they known for?
    He previously gained fame on Vine by posting videos of magician’s tricks and has since gone viral on TikTok with similar content.

Spencer Polanco Knight

  • Follower count: 51.8 million
  • What are they known for?
    He is a beatboxer who has collaborated with music artists and also gained fame on YouTube with his unique content.
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