Children of Facebook, YouTube and Instagram – about influencers and their effect on our little ones
Present-day twenty-year-olds are often called Post-Millenials, generation Z or the Internet generation. It’s due to the fact that for those people, the digital world was always there – it didn’t occur at some point in their lives, but was present since the day they were born. Because of that, we can see names such as: gener@tion, multitasking generation, iGeneration, digital citizens. Said terms indicate certain traits that are characteristic for that age group, namely:
● people who use the Internet and social media in a competent way,
● the technology is their main tool for gaining knowledge,
● they are used to quick access to information,
● the line between the real world and the virtual one is flexible for them.
This generation gave birth to most influencers – people whose behaviors influence the decisions of others. Let’s take a closer look at what this trend (or maybe a full-time job at this point?) has become.
Influencers, along with YouTubers, are currently making the quickest and largest income in the marketing business. Of course, the top positions of the financial ladder are occupied by celebrities who can demand over a million dollars for endorsing a certain product (Kylie Jenner, Cristiano Ronaldo). But going back to the average class of the Polish market – the influencers’ income is really quite impressive. They can earn up to 10-20 thousand PLN just for posting a photo with a specific slogan. Depending on multiple factors, the price can be higher or lower. Nevertheless, the possibility of a quick income is quite tempting for young people. Especially since the influencers’ area of operation is incredibly wide and more often than not includes entertainment- or hobby-related categories (fashion, travel, video games, sport, makeup, but also a lot of niche topics, such as modeling). On the one hand – it’s amazing how young people can turn their passion into profit, but on the other – the world of influencers is often centered around consumerist lifestyle and it’s easy to lose yourself in it. But let’s go back to the characteristic of that, let’s say, profession. How do you become an influencer? Think of a boy who starts playing video games at the age of 12. Without a doubt, from the perspective of a parent, spending too much time on that activity is disturbing and it would be better if he invested his free time in studying. Nonetheless, one step at a time, the boy develops his interests and as the trend of publishing videos on YouTube grows, he starts his own channel where he publishes such content. He quickly becomes popular and sees that there are many people who share his passion. He then reads a ton of positive comments about himself, becoming more convinced that he’s good at what he does. He receives motivation and inspiration in the form of loyal fans. He builds his reputation based on his internet activity. Then he becomes recognized as an expert in his field. As time goes, he realizes that such content attracts many viewers and therefore can be monetized by including advertisements in the videos. That way, he starts earning money by doing something he likes. After reaching a certain point, advertisers contact him themselves. Our teenager starts participating in interesting projects, earning serious amounts of money, that for others would take years to save up. That position allows him to afford a higher and more comfortable standard of living. Our teenager becomes well-known in the business, his viewers take even more interest in him… This is where we come to the main question: who is the target audience of influencers?
People who view the content of influencers are mostly teenagers. According to the 2017 UNICEF report, one out of every three Internet users is under 18. About 71% of teens are online, compared to 48% of the entire society. In the USA, 95% of children up to 10 years old know how to use the Web. Moreover, the results of comparing data regarding the involvement of specific media devices and the increase of using smartphones by children above the age of 8 between 2011 and 2017 are shocking. It was increased by 31 percentage points. The chart below presents the said tendency. You can see that the increase in using mobile devices affected the decrease in using other devices.
The data indicates that the mobile device has become the one that is used by children the most. The Internet is much more attractive in comparison to television or video games. Kindergarteners more often tend to watch cartoons on YouTube than on a TV screen. Accessing the Internet is the most common on smartphones which are much more handy and can be used almost anywhere. Even though younger children (6-7 years old) are mainly interested in watching and playing, things get a lot more interesting once they turn 8. It’s a point where kids start using social media. Because they’ve learned how to write and read, they can now enter the Internet world. Kids can easily communicate through Facebook, use the Google search engine, or watch desired content on YouTube. As they grow older, the purposes they use the Internet for change. Once they become teenagers, they have different needs that they will also fulfill using the Internet. I’m talking about social needs, such as: the need to belong, to feel accepted and recognized. The possibility of talking to their friends, being part of a group, sharing interests and entertainment contents at any time – all of it builds human relations, and is even more essential in case of young people. For parents who haven’t grown up in the digital era, it’s difficult to understand why kids these days find social media so important. All the teenager’s information and photos play a huge role. Building one’s image online is as important as building one’s sense of self among peers at school. Additionally, while growing up, young people require role models to follow and identify with. In the digital era, searching for such people often takes place online. That is why influencers are becoming authorities or at least personas who their audience establishes some sort of relations with. No wonder then, that children nowadays answer the question of “Who would you like to be in the future?” not with “a doctor, a policeman, a firefighter”, but with “a YouTuber, a gamer, an influencer”. The content published by influencers will be shaping kids and teenagers. So who will be shaping that content?
People not much older than those children, who often are unaware of the responsibility that comes with their positions. The market is driven by kids. It’s commonly known how much they can impact their parents’ shopping decisions. Marketing specialists use more and more brand new means of communication to reach the target groups. Influencer Marketing is becoming a mandatory method of communication. Advertisers know, that in order to convince children and teenagers to buy their product or to influence their view of a given product, they need to talk to them through their “mentors”. On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with a fashion blogger giving her opinion on a certain shoe brand and saying it’s the best in the world. On the flip side, presenting given products in ways that may have an impact on one’s well-being or self-esteem might be pushing it too much. We should keep in mind that at this stage, kids and teenagers are still quite naive and unaware of certain matters. The presented products often come from popular expensive brands, and the pictures are taken in a professional way during photo sessions. Constant focus on tangible goods can create an unrealistic need to own such goods, and the inability to do so will lead to frustration. Teenagers just don’t realize these products are used for advertising purposes. Creating the previously mentioned need is an inseparable part of marketing. The desire to be like one’s role model might be the cause of thoughtless copying of other people’s shopping preferences, as well as their entire lifestyles. Moreover, the lifestyle presented by influencers is focused only on the pretty parts. This creates the illusion that their lives are filled with more excitement, are more luxurious and consist only of beautiful moments. It can lead to an illusive impression that such life is accessible to every young person.
This is why parental control is so important when it comes to the content viewed by our children. Who are their favorites and role models? Of course, it’s not about forbidding them from using YouTube, Instagram or Facebook (because those platforms can also offer a lot of interesting, positive and developing content), but about showing certain interest in our child’s preferences. Similarly, it’s not advised to forbid a teenager from watching a certain YouTuber (excluding, of course, cases where vulgar, sexist, racist, or hate-encouraging contents are presented), because we find them to be someone unworthy of anyone’s attention. The goal here is to teach the child a critical attitude towards the Internet world, where a lot of the content exists solely for social media-related purposes. The child should know their parent’s opinions and confront them with whatever he hears or reads online. In the digital era, the presence of kids in the worlds of Internet and social media is inevitable, but it’s important to make sure they don’t build their sense of selves based mainly on the contents of the virtual space, and that their parents are more aware of the effects the Internet can have on their kids. To wrap this up – I wouldn’t want to leave all of it portrayed in such a bad way. Many influencers make sure to properly present the nature of their actions; they support righteous civic duties, participate in charity fundraising, support environmental or child protection organizations, etc. There are many positive actions that can be found among their online activities, which many people can take an example from. The partnership brands also carefully observe the content published by influencers, undertaking proper steps when necessary (like in the case of the most popular YouTuber – PewDiePie – who lost the partnership contract with Disney after some of his work was considered hateful). Nonetheless, due to the frequency of using internet apps and social media by children and teenagers, there should be some degree of parental control. It will ensure a safe growing-up process for our kids in the digital era.
Gosia/translated by Konrad
chart source: https://www.marketingcharts.com/
image source: https://pixabay.com/pl/