Kidfluencers - The Positives and Negatives
There has been an increase in the “smaller influencer” in the recent years. Which surprisingly doesn’t refer to an influencer with a small audience, but the actual age of the influencer. Many brands, including large corporations are using child vloggers to boost the impact of their social media advertising. In this article, we’ll be exploring the fine line between entrepreneurship and exploitation, in which parents and talent agents drive hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in revenue from children.
An example of a kidfluencer: a 7 year old earning $22 million on YouTube reviewing toys and another 7 year old promoting dance clothing to nearly 5 million followers. They are branded as influencers, actors, and celebrities with the help of entrepreneurial, digitally-savvy parents and talent agents.
Some of these kidfluencers are so young, they fall outside the marketing industry’s most obsessed-over generation: Gen Z (those born between 1995 - 2010). With birth dates starting in 2010, that is how young kidfluencers nowadays are. Most of their activities are happening on one channel: YouTube. 85% of them use YouTube as their main platform to post their content.
These market conditions have given rise to a new ecosystem of those looking to capitalize on the opportunity to engage the child and teen generations with trusted peers. Because YouTube and Instagram does not permit an account held by anyone under the age of 13, kidfluencer accounts are usually managed by their parents, publicists, talent agencies and PR professionals.
What is the impact on these kidfluencers?
We could assume they’ll have the same experience as child actors - some of whom make it to adulthood well-adjusted and safe. Others of course suffer the more negative aspects of the industry.
These kidfluencers are often managed by parents who may not have in-depth business or social media experience. In some cases they are not old enough to consent to what they are doing and are not protected by the child labor laws that restrict the numbers of hours they work or ensure access to recreation and education, as child actors are. Though some parents have kept their child's earnings in the bank for future use, one example being for their child's college education.
Most agree there is to some extent, exploitation in all of this. There is no way for kids as young as 6 or 7 to understand the long-term implications of such public exposure, scrutiny, and pressure to continually perform and create. Critical thinking isn’t developed until age 12 (and, some would argue a skill most adults have yet to develop.) If we are to measure these partnerships on a spectrum between entrepreneurship and exploitation, we must examine both motivations, intentions and treatment.
As for treatment, we are already seeing extreme cases of abuse. An example being the horrifying story of the adopted children starved, beaten and pepper sprayed when they failed to follow direction for videos for the channel “Fantastic Adventures” with over 242 million views. Anyone who maintains a personal brand online has felt some sort of sense of being trapped by the brand they’re now expected to maintain. There is definitely long-term mental, emotional and psychological effects on these kidfluencers, be it positive or negative.
Brands do have the chance and responsibility to make an ethical decision in the way these children will be kept safe.