What are the impacts of influencer culture on young people?


Experts Sajda Mughal OBE, Julia von Weiler and Will Gardner explain what the culture around influencers is and how it can impact children.

Learn what you can do to help keep children from buying into influencer culture.

A young influencer records themselves promoting a product.

Sajda Mughal OBE

CEO of JAN Trust, Campaigner and Consultant
Expert Website

What does influencer culture mean?

‘Influencer culture’ is describes the phenomenon of celebrities who use their fame to promote particular products, i.e., ‘influence’ their audience for money. These figures could gain fame through social media itself or through traditional avenues.

How could influencers affect children and young people?

Awareness of influencer culture is important. It’s often a way to find out about new things, but also has dangers for those who do not realise that the online world is heavily edited. Influencers rarely actually lead the lives they put out for the world they see. When they do, it’s often not a healthy life to lead.

Young people and children are more susceptible to pressure and likely to constantly compare themselves with the people they see on social media. As such, this edited reality is potentially more harmful for younger users.

What should parents do to protect their child?

Influencer culture is a very superficial and artificial world, and it is important that we all remain aware of this. We must refrain from comparing ourselves with other people at the cost of our own wellbeing. Furthermore, we should avoid automatically assuming that an influencer post is authentic or trustworthy.

We must teach our young children to uphold these practises.

Julia von Weiler

Psychologist & Executive Director
Expert Website

How can parents help children avoid falling for influencer culture?

The concept of marketing strategy and advertising is already very difficult for adults to recognise. A part of influencer culture is influencers making you feel like they are taking you into their lives so you feel close to them, even though they are simply doing their job and selling products with their posts.

Say no to influencer products

The younger that children are, the less they can (and should have to) understand this concept. It is the job of parents and other trusted adults in children’s lives to protect them. In this case, it might mean saying “no” over and over again when they want to buy their favourite influencer’s product.

Talk about influencer ads

As they get older, maybe from Year 5, we can start talking to them about influence and advertising. It is certainly also important to admit that we adults fall for this kind of thing all the time too. Look at posts from influencers together with children and to classify it again and again. Even if we probably get on their nerves, something will stick.

Stay on top of who they follow

It is also important to know who they follow and who the influencers are so that you know what you are talking about. This is definitely an ongoing task that requires a lot of patience.

Good patience and success! You can do it!

Will Gardner

Director, UK Safer Internet Centre, coordinators of Safer Internet Day and CEO, Childnet
Expert Website

Tips to understanding influencer culture

Here are 5 top tips from the Childnet Education Team to help children and young people, and parents and carers understand influencer culture.

Understand that influencers get paid

An influencer often gets paid to promote content, either with money or with free items. Influencers have a responsibility to label any posts of a commercial nature, usually with the hashtag ‘#ad,’ so that followers know how to separate advertising and endorsements from personal content.

Critically think about content

Regardless of their number of followers or if they have a verified account, it’s still important to critically assess the messaging or content an influencer promotes. Influencers have their own opinions and beliefs, and these may not align with your values.

Recognise photos are edited

Many images that you encounter on social media are heavily edited or filtered. Remind your child of this when they look at influencer (or any!) content online. A lot of work can go into making just one photo seem ‘perfect,’ and the original might look quite different.

Use platform tools like ‘mute’

It is human nature to compare yourself with others. Children and young people are no different. If they find that using social media is affecting their mental health or making them feel bad about themselves, then taking a break could help.

Encourage your child to unfollow or mute any accounts that affect their wellbeing, and always let someone know how they feel.

Embrace the positives!

Lots of influencers use their platform for good, and it can be a great way to explore new ideas, lifestyles or learn about different cultures.

Encourage your child to choose to follow and share accounts that make them feel good, and those that aim to spread positive messages online.